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Entries : Bessie Coleman: Pioneer Chicago Aviator
Bessie Coleman: Pioneer Chicago Aviator

Bessie Coleman: Pioneer Chicago Aviator

Bessie Coleman migrated to Chicago from Texas in 1915. Like many other African Americans, Coleman sought better opportunities in northern cities like Chicago. Coleman followed an unusual dream: to become an airplane pilot. Facing prejudice both as a woman and an African American, Coleman was unable to train in the United States. With the encouragement of Robert Abbott, publisher of the Chicago Defender, Coleman learned French and gained entrance into the Caudron School of Aviation in France in 1920.

After earning her international pilot's license, she became a barnstormer, with the Chicago Defender as her sponsor. Coleman toured the United States. On October 15, 1922, more than 2,000 people came to the Checkerboard Field in Maywood (now Miller Meadow Forest Preserve) for Coleman's first exhibition in Chicago. Coleman died in a plane crash in Florida in 1926.

A group of African American pilots organized the Challenger Air Pilot's Association in 1931, inspired by Bessie Coleman. This association founded an airport at Robbins in 1933 to accommodate the needs of African American pilots who faced discrimination at other Chicago airports.