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Bessie Coleman moved from Texas to Chicago at the age of 23 in the hopes of a better life with more opportunity. Inspired by the exciting stories of flying that WWI soldiers told her, Coleman decided pursue a career in aviation. Sadly, she was denied entry to any school she approached because she was both a woman and Black. With no other American options to obtain schooling, she traveled to France. She received her international pilot’s license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in June 1921, becoming the first African American woman and the first Native American woman to do so.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of Coleman’s historic certification, American Airlines put together an all-Black, all-female crew—from the pilots to the flight attendants to the cargo members. Flying out of Dallas, the airline hosted a special guest on the flight, Gigi Coleman, Bessie Coleman’s great niece. In a video included in American Airlines’ press release, Gigi says, “I am grateful for American Airlines to give us this opportunity to highlight my great aunt's accomplishments in the field of aviation.”
As well as celebrating the past, the airline is hoping to improve the future by “[diversifying] the flight deck.” American Airlines states a staggering statistic: Black women represent less than 1% of workers in the commercial airline industry. Cheryl Gaymon, who worked on the historic flight, has been a flight attendant for over 55 years. “I am blown away,” she states. “This is the first time I’ve been on an all-Black women’s crew and it makes me feel so good.”
When the crew landed in Phoenix, pilots and cadets met with high school students to discuss careers in aviation. Coleman’s legacy is one of inspiring others to pursue their dreams and to break barriers. This event seems to be the best way of honoring that legacy.
Bessie Coleman became the first African American woman, and the first Native American woman, to obtain a pilot’s license in June 1921.
A flight nearly 100 years in the making! 👏 Bessie Coleman broke down barriers for women in aviation and paved the way for a historic flight staffed by an #AATeam of all-Black females. For more on this story visit: https://t.co/ihAipnEGXl. pic.twitter.com/4aYrCI78rE
— americanair (@AmericanAir) August 19, 2022
To honor the 100th anniversary of Bessie Coleman’s historic certification, American Airlines created an all-Black, all-female crew to fly out of Dallas-Fort Worth. Coleman's great-niece Gigi says, “I am grateful for American Airlines to give us this opportunity to highlight my great aunt's accomplishments in the field of aviation.”