Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

"Queen Bess" Coleman: vintage photo

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | October 01, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: African-American, black female aviator, feminist history, women's history, women's studies

Worth remembering! Born in 1892, the beautiful, tough, determined and incredibly inspiration, professional aviator Bessie "Queen Bess" Coleman was the first African American (in the world) to attain a pilot's license. At age 30, she was considered "the world's greatest woman flyer." Her tragic death at only 34 ended a fierce and brilliant career.

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Regan DuCasse | October 1, 2010 7:00 PM

She'd be a great subject for a movie. You listening, Oprah, Tyler...Shonda?

I read about her twenty years ago. I'm trying to imagine what courage it took. Imagine if other women like her could have qualified like the "Tuskeegee Airmen"?

Few in the country pause to think what it would be like if there never had been sexism, racism, homophobia and so on.

Imagine all the talent and wasted potential...

It’s sad that her young life was cut short. Its sadder that when you go looking at such things as her Wiki entry, it not only glosses over her life but leaves a caricature of it.

She was born and raised in a highly bigoted south that was still in the post-civil war years of reconstruction. Her accomplishments for the time were heroic, and those accomplishments are something to be proud of, but too many biographers simply gloss over some facts…

She was a lesbian and often called in her day a womanizer. She loved to party and do so often. She lived the Roaring 20’s life.

Her death? Early in the accident investigation a jilted husband was investigated. There were suspicions at the time that the plane’s flight controls had been tampered with and her restraint harness had been cut. But, the investigation was closed early on.

After all, it was Jacksonville Florida, it was the 20’s, she was black, female and a lesbian. It reads like it could have happened last week.

[Note on the wiki and many other sources, they state a wrench was left in a gearbox which jammed the engine which caused Bessie to lose control of the aircraft. I work on aircraft and have been around some of those old birds. A wrench in the reduction gearbox would cause loss of the engine, not loss of control of the aircraft. A wrench in the reduction gearbox would be enclosed and forward of the firewall and all flight control cables and quadrants. ]

Her story was as colorful as the times she lived in. I always hate reading the 2nd grader bio’s of people who are GLBT. You always end up with a paper doll image with no depth. She led the way for so many.

(and where I work, the Woman’s Forum is named after her)

Gloria Brame | October 2, 2010 2:59 PM

Gina, wow, thank you for that. Do you have any cites (URLs or book titles) you could refer me to? I didn't know of her until I found her photo on eBay and did a quick google search. I have been saving her for Black History Month on my blog, and would love to do a fuller bio there. BTW, Wiki is Open Source, so you could easily expand her bio if you have cites. She so definitely deserves to receive more public recognition for all she did and was.

What a story, Gina. Someone should make a movie on her.