Bessie Coleman: Pilot Project
Bessie Coleman was born into poverty and picked cotton to help support her family.
As World War I ended, her dream was to fly, but every flying school turned her down because of her gender and race.
Unbowed, she learned French and went to France, where she earned her international flying license, two years before Amelia Earhart. At the time, she was the only licensed black pilot in the world.
For the rest of her short life, she encouraged others to turn their dreams into reality. Sadly, she died in a crash while practicing for an air show in 1926.
There are 136-thousand pilots and navigators in the U.S. today, 3-and-1/2 percent of them female and just over one-half percent African American.
This profile is adapted from Profile America, a radio series produced by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2004.