Bessie Coleman (1892-1926) was the world's first licensed female African American pilot. While living with her brothers in Chicago, she dreamed of flying after hearing stories from soldiers returning from World War I. Because of her race and gender, she could not find a school to accept her, so she studied French and with the financial support of the leading black Chicago publisher, Robert Abbot, she got her aviator's license in Paris, France. She returned to the United States in 1921 and performed in countless air shows-selecting only the shows that would also admit blacks as spectators. On April 30, 1926, while practicing for an exhibition, Coleman fell from her plane to her death.
Bessie Coleman was honored with the issuance of this 32-cent commemorative stamp on April 27, 1995, in Chicago, Illinois. The stamp depicts Coleman in the leather helmet and goggles she wore as a 1920's barnstormer.
This stamp is part of the Black Heritage Stamp Series. Initiated in 1978, the USPS continues to issue a stamp featuring a notable Black American every February in conjunction with Black History Month and at other times during the year.
The stamps were printed in the combination offset-intaglio process by the Bureau of Engraving of Printing, and issued in panes of fifty.
Reference: Postal Bulletin (March, 30, 1995).
Scott Catalogue USA: 2956
Copyright United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.
Museum ID: 1996.2066.124