Today's Google Doodle commemorates the 125th anniversary of her birth. Coleman was among a small group of female aviators in the early 20th century who successfully flew around the detours of racial prejudice and sexism to become queens in the air.
Worldwide, only 3 percent of airline pilots are women, the Royal Aeronautical Society
Bessie Coleman set her sights high when she left rural Texas in her 20s. She moved to Chicago and worked as a manicurist, but it was her brothers' stories from from World War I that piqued her interest in flying. They'd make jokes about about how French women were better than African-American women because they could fly. Those taunts became inspiration, but flight schools in the US denied her entry because of her race and gender, according to the Smithsonian.
Very few American women of any race had pilot's licenses by 1918, but those who did were often white and rich. Undeterred, she learned French and moved to Paris. In 1921, Coleman became the first female pilot of African-American decent.
She died at 34 in 1926 during a practice run with another pilot. About 10 minutes into the flight, as they were doing a dive, the engine stopped working and Coleman fell from the plane. While she never fulfilled her dream to open a flight school for future black pilots, Coleman's imprint on aviation history lives on. www.biography.com/people/bessie-coleman