Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female pilot, on January 24, 1923. Coleman was a 28-year-old manicurist in Chicago when she became interested in aviation. After being rejected by every flying school she applied to, Coleman took the advice of Chicago Defender publisher Robert Abbott and went to France to learn to fly. Before she left, she learned French at a Berlitz school in the Chicago loop and, with financial support from Abbott and her own savings from her work as a manicurist and the manager of a chili parlor, Coleman left for Paris on November 20, 1920.
Ms. Coleman performed in countless air shows over the years and encouraged other African-Americans to learn to fly before her own tragic death at age 34 on April 30, 1926. Her funeral, attended by 10,000 mourners on Chicago’s South Side, was presided over by the legendary journalist and activist Ida B. Wells.