Air Goddesses: The History of Black Women in Flight

Blacks in flight go beyond Tuskegee.

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Over on Suite 101, a nice write-up on Black women in aviation

Make no mistake African-American women do fly planes, and in growing numbers greater than one might think! Surprising to many, black women have been earning their wings since 1921 when Bessie Coleman was licensed in Paris from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (F.A.I.), and subsequently received an international pilot’s license to became the first African-American to do so. That includes women and men.

“There are about 86,000 commercial pilots in this country today,” explains Lt. Col., Beverly Armstrong, a black female pilot, and president and founder of The Bessie Coleman Foundation. “Of those 86,000, approximately 1200 are African-Americans, and about 100 of those are female.”

Bessie Coleman made her first contribution not just to African-American history but American History and everyone can benefit from knowing her story. Nikki Knight is the 2nd Black female pilot to graduate from the United States Army pilot school, Sheila Chamberlain is the 5th, and in June of 1986, Beverly Armstrong became the10th Black women to graduate. “I was amazed to find out that I was only the 10th woman to graduate from the Army’s helicopter school and this was the 80s,” says Coleman. “Black women represent less than six percent of all African-American aviators. My hope is to change that and increase those numbers!”

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