Bessie Coleman



Bessie Coleman’s
Aviation Community

Columbia Air Center - The Legacy of Black Aviation was held on Saturday, September 21, 2013 - to honor the historical significance of the Columbia Air Center, along with honoring the early pioneers Herbert Jones, William Fauntroy Jr. (both Tuskegee Airmen), Albert Young, Captain Fred Pitcher and Gladys Otey, who flew at the historic Center. Ms. Otey was one of the first female pilots to fly at Columbia Air Center. Captain Fred Pitcher was the first African-American pilot for Western Airlines (now Delta Airlines). Attendees witnessed a symbolic flyover by members of the H.J. Aviation flight school and others. This event was held at the site of the Columbia Air Center, 16000 Croom Airport Road; Upper Marlboro, MD 20772 - more Hart is CEO of Hart Realty Advisors a real estate development, urban planning, and community outreach organization. From 2008-2009 Hart served as the first Managing Director for Member Diversity Initiatives for the 30,000 member Urban Land Institute (ULI) where he developed a business plan to increase the number of women and minorities in ULI worldwide. Hart was named Diversity Executive of the Year for 2010 by Commercial Property Executive. From 2006-2008 Hart served as Executive Director of ULI Los Angeles, the first ULI District Council to reach 2,000 members under Hart’s leadership. Hart has served as a construction manager with HNTB/Yang for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) $20 billion new school construction and modernization program. Hart served as project manager for the 5,000-seat, $65 million West Angeles Cathedral in South Los Angeles. Hart was master developer for the 75-acre Crosstown Industrial Park in Roxbury, Massachusetts which has high technology, biotechnology, university, office, retail, industrial, textile manufacturing, public utility, and hotel tenants. For over twenty years Hart was a Professor of Sociology and Institute Director at the University of Massachusetts, Boston with an appointment in the College of Public and Community Service.

“I am not a trained historian but an active one starting since I was in high school,” Hart says. “I am an expert on black pilots prior to World War II and am an advisor to the Smithsonian Institution.” To further his knowledge, Philip continues his research daily. He finished an online photo essay titled The Invisible Eagles: Meet Ten of America’s First Black Pilots published by Oxford University Press and is working on a script for Disney to showcase Banning’s flight as a motion picture.

To fill a gaping hole in the history of black aviation, Hart spent 25 years and nearly $2 million to uncover new information and restore old and damaged film footage from others’ family collections. Hart, an educator, author and filmmaker, has written several books, including the Scholastic books Flying Free: America’s First Black Aviators and Up in the Air: The Story of Bessie Coleman, and produced the 1987 PBS documentary Flyers in Search of a Dream, still available on PBS Home Video. “It’s a never ending story,” Hart says. “I know there is more footage and history out there that eventually I will uncover to bring another part of the story to life.” more


Guy Bluford
African Americans in Aviation (Boeing Powerpoint) - This presentation of forty (40) slides is an excellent pictorial resource provided by the Boeing Black Employees Association of Oklahoma City, OK.


Lieutenant William J. Powell (1897-1942)
"Because of Bessie Coleman.. We have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers. We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream…”

Powell dreamed of African Americans finding their rightful place in the air age as pilots and mechanics, a vision he called “Black Wings.” He led a small group of black air enthusiasts in Los Angeles during the 1920s. He established the Bessie Coleman Flying Club and sponsored the first all-black air show.

He called for the full participation of African Americans in aviation as pilots, mechanics, and business leaders. To achieve this end, he wrote his visionary book, Black Wings, produced a documentary film, and worked tirelessly to mobilize African American youth for aviation. more


THE ALMA PROJECT - Infinite Skies: Bessie Coleman, Mae Jemison, and Ellen Ochoa (Denver Public Schools) - Excellent Tool for 11th -12th graders. This is a Cultural Curriculum Infusion Model to teach and to reinforce concepts of Gender Equality, Women’s History, Role Modeling, Racism, Work Ethics, and Justice. more

Oscar Holmes: He Broke Three Color Barriers,
but Few Knew - When we read about the many accomplishments of African Americans in aviation, we rarely hear the name Oscar Wayman Holmes. Holmes, who never really thought of himself as a pioneer, actually broke three color barriers, becoming the first African American air traffic controller in 1941 and a year later becoming the first commissioned Black officer in the U.S. Navy and the first Black Navy pilot. Holmes never
set out to break down racial barriers - he just wanted to fly. more
Eleanor J. Williams -
FAA’s First Black Female Air Traffic Controller.
“Never let them see you sweat!”

The first job Eleanor Williams had at an FAA building was to clean the place. The mother of seven had just moved to Anchorage from her birthplace in Texas and her sister had a janitorial contract for the regional office. From that humble beginning in 1963, she launched a career that made her the first African-American woman certified air traffic controller and the first African-American woman to manage an Air Route Traffic Control Center. more Robinson Coffey (1903-1994) Cornelius Robinson Coffey was the first African American to establish an aeronautical school in the United States. His school was also the only aviation program not affiliated with a university or college to become part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). His pioneering efforts led to the integration of black pilots into the overall American aviation industries, both civilian and military. more

Air Goddess- Doreen Branch is a private pilot who owns a Grumman Cheetah and is the first African-American female student (taught by an African-American male teacher) to fly out of Washington Executive Field in Maryland. She is pictured with her Grumman Cheetah.
more “Preacher” Brandon Inducted into the TN Aviation Hall of Fame - Milton L. Brandon, best known as “Preacher” to the Memphis aviation community, was posthumously inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame at the group’s 12th Annual ceremony and gala held in late October 2013 in Murfreesboro, TN. “Preacher” worked at the Memphis International Airport for 74 years and became the face of MEM to the corporate world of aviation. His smiles and his brand of customer service made him an icon at Tennessee’s largest airport.

Grover NashGrover C. Nash - Grover C. Nash could fly a plane with the best of any pilot of his day. Grover Cleveland Nash of Georgia was born in 1911 and was first issued a pilot's license in 1938. He was a member of the Challenger Air Pilot's Association in Chicago and a founding member of the National Airmen's Association of America. This is the story of a poor farm boy from Twiggs County, Georgia who piloted his plane into history as he became the first African American pilot to fly and deliver the U.S. mail. more

Jill E. Brown Hiltz - Elaine Brown received her wings in 1978 as the first African American female pilot to fly for a major U.S. commercial airline. Ms. Brown, then 28, was one of six women to graduate in a class of 38 pilots from then Texas International Airline's training program. Her interest in aviation, however, like those Black female pioneers before her, began in her formative years. Brown began flying at the age of 17 when she and her parents Gilbert and Elaine Brown, undertook the project as a hobby. "Daddy was tired of getting speeding tickets," she told Ebony magazine in a 1975 interview. "And one day, while they were driving past a small airport they saw a plane landing, Daddy decided that was for us. more

La'Shonda HolmesMeet The First Black Female U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot - La’Shanda Holmes Jones -
That Lt. j.g. La’Shanda Holmes had those traits was never in doubt. The humble, soft-spoken young woman had faced trials growing up in North Carolina that tested and tempered her desire to excel. When she walked across the stage April 9th to receive her wings as the first African-American female helicopter pilot in the U.S. Coast Guard, it was simply the next chapter of a proud story. - more

Capt. August "Augie" Martin was the first black airline pilot in the United States. He learned to fly in the Civilian Pilot Training Program at the University of California and received his Instructor's Rating in 1942. He then worked as a flight instructor in the Navy V-12 program at Cornell University.
In 1943, he joined the Army Air Corps, and went through flight training at Tuskeegee, Alabama. He then went on to fly B-25's. He was hired by Seaboard in 1955. On July 1, 1968, he died in an accident flying a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation on a mercy mission to Biafra. A high school in Jamaica NY is named after him. The FAA has an educational program and activities book about Capt. Martin. more

Janet Harmon Bragg: Female AviatorJanet Harmon Bragg in her flight suit, c. 1930s, by Unidentified photographer, Smithsonian Institution Archives, RU 9545, Still image from Videohistory Interview Session 1 Tape 1. - born Jane Nettie Harmon (March 24, 1907 — April 11, 1993) was an American amateur aviator. She was the first African-American woman to hold a Commercial Pilot License. Janet bought her own plane for $600 and shared it with fellow African-American flying enthusiasts. Janet and a few other Black aviators started their own airport in Robbins, Illinois, an all-black town about 20 miles southwest of Chicago. They went on to establish the Coffey School of Aviation in 1939. more

“I'm not afraid of tomorrow because I've seen yesterday, and today is beautiful." - Janet Bragg (1991)
Captain James Simons featured in Black Enterprise Magazine Based out of Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., Captain James Simeons is the only African American chief pilot at United Airlines. With 35 years’ experience under his belt, including a decade in the U.S. Air Force, Simons oversees 1,400 pilots in United’s Northeast Region. more

USMC Capt. Vernice Armour - First Black Female fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. One of the few and the proud, during the start of the war in March 2003, United States Marine Corps Captain Vernice G Armour was one of 1,500 female Marines in the Persian Gulf fighting to dismantle the regime of Saddam Hussein in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hailing from Memphis, TN, has the added distinction of being the first African American female combat pilot in Marine Corps. Fly Girl more

Karen Duckett, African-American architect and businesswoman
Karen Duckett - Duckett Design Group was the joint venture partner for the Maynard Holbrook Jackson Jr. International Terminal in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, serving as the deputy project manager during the building of this 1.2 million square foot, $1.1 billion airport project. This project is the largest commission ever for an African-American, female-owned architectural firm. A believer in giving back, Karen has also served on several community organizations, including 100 Black Women, the Women’s Forum of Georgia and the Women’s Commission for the Department of Corrections. more



Angela GittensAngela Gittens - Gittens has held top executive positions at three of the largest U.S. airport systems. Under her direction, Miami International Airport attained international recognition for its environmental achievements with ISO 14001 certification, the first airport in the US to do so. She also served as Vice-President of TBI Airport Management, where she ran airport contracts at several airports in the US and Canada. She managed the privatization transition of the 6 million passenger airport in Luton, England. As General Manager of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport she led the airport’s preparations for the 1996 Olympics and under her tenure the airport became the busiest airport worldwide.


LT. Col. Beverly Armstrong - Bessie Coleman Foundation INC Founder/Past President; Military and Commercial PilotAviatrix, administrator, and both a decorated and accomplished officer in the Air National Guard, Lt. Col. Beverly Armstrong has been securely fastened within the distinguished legacy of great aviators, both male and female. The great inventor Leonardo da Vinci was recorded as having said, “When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” Such has been the path of Beverly Armstrong during the recording of well over 3,070 total hours of flight, in which time she has managed to unveil, for herself and others, a view of Earth far too many never see.

Mildred Carter - Earned a pilot's license in 1941 from Tuskegee’s Civilian Pilot Training Program. Mildred was a junior in the school of Business at Tuskegee Institute with a work-study job in the Scholl of Mechanical Industries under the direction of Mr. G. L. Washington who along with Dr. Patterson spearheaded the Civilian Pilot Training Program. She became interested in flying and applied for the CPTP program in 1939, but was denied entrance because of age. Her application was returned with the words “This applicant is two weeks too young.” She was seventeen and the requirement was eighteen years of age. She applied the next year and was accepted. She received her pilot’s license on February 1, 1941. She then applied for the Secondary (Advanced) program, but was denied on the basis that female private pilots were not being accepted into the secondary program. Coleman - Great niece of Bessie Coleman
Following in her mother’s ( Marion Coleman) footsteps, Gigi is passionate in her my endeavor to inform the world about the achievements of her Aunt Bessie Coleman - the first African American to earn her international pilot's license in France and the first black woman in the world to fly an airplane. Bessie's niece, the late Marion Coleman, petitioned a postal stamp in her honor.

Gigi is widely sought after to perform her one woman production in recognition of her “Aunt Bessie”. Through Gigi’s reenactment of Bessie Coleman, she challenges the mindset of both young and old and encourages them to achieve their dreams.

Denise Kelley - Boeing Sr. Manager - Hardware/Software Integration
Mirian Denise Kelley is a native Houstonian, born and raised in the metropolitan Houston area. She attended college on a dual-degree scholarship program at Texas Southern and Rice Universities in Houston where she studied Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. She is currently a manager with the Boeing Company in Houston working with NASA at the Johnson Space Center. Denise has over 40 years engineering experience in aerospace having begun her career as a civil servant with JSC and The MITRE (Massachusetts Institute of Technology Research and Engineering) Company in Houston on the Space Shuttle and Station programs. Denise is the author and presenter of a number of aerospace publications. She was named ‘1992 Engineer of the Year’ by the National/Greater Houston Area Technical Achievers Academy, A Project of the National Technical Association Houston Chapter. Denise was featured in an article in the Houston Chronicle in January 2004 for her work with Houston entrepreneurs at the Houston Technology Center. She currently serves on the board of Directors and is the CIO for a local Houston firm. Denise is actively involved in Women & the Sciences, a mentoring program in which young women are teamed with female science professionals to assist in career planning.

Nancy LawrenceNancy Fontenot Lawrence, PHD is an Associate Professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL . Dr. Lawrence mentors many future aviators and has more than 10 years of industry experience in transportation safety, specializing in Ergonomics/Human Factors, Safety, Industrial Hygiene & Environmental. She has been a college professor for 18 years, in graduate and undergraduate degree programs. She currently serves as president of the Bessie Coleman Aerospace Legacy (BCAL) and is an active member of Women in Aviation (WIA), Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) and American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). Before coming to Embry-Riddle, Nancy worked for Indiana State University as an Associate Professor from August 1994 to August 2005. Nancy worked for Northrop Corporation in Hawthorne California as an Industrial Hygiene Specialist on the F5, F18, 747 and B2 bomber. She also worked for RTD which is now the MTA in LA, Ca. as an Industrial Hygiene, Safety and Environmental Specialist.


Lt Col Kimberly Scott is a C-17 Globemaster III pilot and Executive Officer in the 728th Airlift Squadron, 446th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA. Lt Colonel Scott graduated from the U. S. Air Force Academy in 1990, with a degree in Political Science. After graduation she was commissioned as a 2nd Lt in the USAF, and attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, TX, where she flew the T-37, a basic training aircraft, and the T-38, supersonic training aircraft. A command pilot, Colonel Scott has over 7500 hours in the KC-135, and the C-17. She has flown worldwide air refueling and airlift missions supporting operations following the Gulf War, and in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, including over 1500 combat hours. Lt Col Scott has served in safety and training, as a flight commander, an executive officer and in the Air Mobility Command Commander’s Action Group at Scott AFB near St Louis, IL. For her contributions to mentoring and aviation education, Lt Col Scott won the 2004 NAACP Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award and was the 2008 U. S. Air Force Reserve Women’s History Month science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) award winner. In civilian life, Lt Col Scott is a 737 First Officer for Alaska Airlines based in Seattle, WA, and currently resides in Redmond, WA. Lt Col Scott is currently a member of Women in Aviation, the 99s, International Society of Women Airlines Pilots, the Sam Bruce Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, and Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals.

Black Flight Attendants of America (BFAOA) - Serving the Skies and the Community and Promoting the Legacy of Black History in Aviation!
BLACK FLIGHT ATTENDANTS OF AMERICA to Fight for the Right to Fly: America’s First Black Flight Attendants -

Patricia Edmiston-Banks had the courage to fight for the right to serve as a “Airline Stewardess” and won!
L - R, Patricia Edmiston-Banks, Shaakira Edison, Jacqueline Jacquet-Williams
more Pilots of America Host Summer Flight Academy
BPA is a non-profit flying organization of approximately 400 pilots across the US. It is dedicated to exposing and encouraging youth to enter the field of aviation and to remain in school. BPA also aims to train African Americans to advance in various employment and job opportunities within all phases of the aviation industry.

The BPA Summer Flight Academy is held at Texas Southern University in Houston, TX. Successful participants receive 10 hours of flight time and 40 hours of ground school. They must have at least a B average and be between the ages of 15 - 19. Students who complete the course, and who gain the approval/supervision of the instructor may be allowed to perform a solo flight. more


Project AerospaceOrganization Of Black Aerospace Professionals 2013 Flight Line and ACE Academy -
OBAP’s ACE Academies are co-sponsored with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other select organizations or institutions. The academies include many interesting educational activities and field trips. During an OBAP academy, students can expect to participate in activities that feature STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) components.

The ACE Academies also include trips to aviation related facilities and receive tours of areas the general public normally never see. Also, our academies offer students the opportunity to perform actual flights in a general aviation aircraft. Traditionally, these flights are easily the highlights of a student's experience. more Army Black Aviation Association, INC - consists of aviators that have flown in most of our Nation's wars or police action. There were members of the organization that flew with the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, and supported the Korean War, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the organization beginning in 1983, members have achieved the ranks of general and other prestigious ranks. USABAA is very proud of its talented membership whom are the pride of Army Aviation. more


National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees (NBCFAE)
National Black Coalition Of Federal Aviation Employees – Western-Pacific RegionThe National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation provides support and advocacy for over 5,000 African American and minority employees against any type of discrimination within the agency (FAA) . NBCFAE is an organization comprised of over 1000 members in regions and chapters and is an employee association specifically designed to provide you with highly effective training and creative resources to succeed in today’s business world.

For over 35 years, NBCFAE, a nationwide network, has been dedicated to promoting equal employment for African Americans, female and minority employees; improving employee-management relations and providing an effective liaison amongst FAA employees and the community at large. In addition, NBCFAE’s positively expands and promotes influence in our community by providing scholarships, presenting Aviation Careers Education (ACE) academies, supporting intern programs, and establishing educational grants and endowments. Each year NBCFAE has distributed over $100,000 in scholarships to deserving students nation-wide. Due to their endeavors, over 15,000 young people have been introduced to careers in aviation at venues across this country. more


Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.
In spite of adversity and limited opportunities, African Americans have played a significant role in U.S. military history over the past 300 years. They were denied military leadership roles and skilled training because many believed they lacked qualifications for combat duty. Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. Civil rights organizations and the black press exerted pressure that resulted in the formation of an all African-American pursuit squadron based in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941. They became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

One of the most important of TAI’s activities is the promotion, creation and support of both local-chapter and national-organization youth and scholarship programs particularly for minority and disadvantaged young people. TAI’s chapters use the life lessons learned from the legacy of the original Tuskegee Airmen-determination, courage, refusal to accept limits, the ability to seize opportunity-to teach career and leadership lessons in a variety of aviation-themed educational programs on a local level. TAI itself also supports nationally an active, well-endowed Scholarship Foundation. more


Bessie Coleman Aerospace Legacy
In 1995, the Bessie Coleman Foundation, Inc. (now the Bessie Coleman Aerospace Legacy, Inc. (BCAL) was established by a group of African American female pilots and other African American aviation professionals and enthusiasts. BCAL is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, DC .

When ‘Queen Bess’ earned her pilot’s license only 6% of licensed pilots were female and unfortunately, that percentage has not changed. Even more striking is the fact that of the 100,000 plus Americans with commercial pilot’s licenses, less than 50 (.005 percent) are African American females. BCAL’s members include Black female pilots, aircraft mechanics, astronauts, air traffic controllers, aviation attorneys and other aeronautical careers and interests. Members of the Bessie Coleman Aerospace Legacy, Inc. volunteer to continue Bessie’s legacy. At BCAL’s conventions, they offer a Bessie Coleman Aerospace Leadership Academy for young adults and a Bessie Coleman Breakfast honoring Black women in Aviation. more


Negro Airmen International, Inc Summer Flight Training
Charles Alfred "Chief' Anderson "Known as the father of Black Aviation"
He joined with Ed Gibbs to found Negro Airmen International

The NAI Summer Flight Academy is situated on the campus of The Alabama Aviation Technical College adjacent to the Ozark Airport. In the clear summer skies of Alabama, a young person will be able to gain valuable college credits while enjoying the wonders of flight following in the footsteps of such great pilots as Charles Chief Anderson, Bessie Coleman, Edward Gibbs, Neal Loving and Charles McGee. Our resident local chapter (Ozark Future Aviators) is a group of twenty-six enthusiastic members and they are anxious to interface with these new potential aviators.

NAI was founded in February, 1967 to help Americans of African descent to learn about the field of aviation, to create job opportunities, and to encourage more Blacks to go into the field of aviation. NAI is the oldest African American Civilian Aviation Organization in the country. Mr. Edward Albertis Gibbs and several of the Trainers of the famed Tuskegee Airmen were responsible for creating and organizing the NAI and incorporating the organization in New York State in 1967. Many of the present African American Aviation organizations have their roots in NAI. Organizations such as the Tuskegee Airmen Inc, in 1973, The Organization of Black Airline Pilots in 1976 and Black Pilots of America in 1997. NAI is dedicated to breaking the "color" barriers in aviation and to promote the participation of African Americans in the aviation industry. more


HomeThe International Black Aerospace Council coordinates and develops activities of the world aerospace community to enhance outreach efforts pertaining to Blacks in aerospace career fields. The IBAC serves as a clearing house for the exchange of information, ideas and prospects for scholastic and employment opportunities for people of color in aerospace careers. IBAC’s function as an interface between corporations, educational institutions, organizations, government, and the military; Establish contact with federal agencies and Provide information and resources for career opportunities, scholarships, and educational programs for youth interested in aerospace careers. more

Fly Girls: Bessie Coleman Chapter in Denver Inspire Youth to Aim High

AgfaPhotoIt’s not every day that we hear or read about young girls wanting to become pilots. Let alone African American girls. Meet 12-year old Dayla Blackburn. She’s young, gifted, African-
American, and is confident about her future of becoming a helicopter pilot. Blackburn, is a member of the Take Flight Leadership Aviation/Fly Girls Bessie Coleman Chapter in Denver, Colorado. TFLA/Fly Girls is an organization created in honor of Bessie Coleman, a pioneer in the field of aviation, who went on to become the first African-American female pilot. Jaqueline Withers, an artist who’s not a pilot states on the groups YouTube video that, she started the program wanting to have an impact on the historical moment in higher education and, to help students explore their goals, visions and dreams, founded the organization in 2003. more