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Barriers couldn't stop her soaring

(ran W edition)

He who asks questions cannot avoid the answers (African proverb from Cameroon).

Born in Atlanta, Texas, on Jan. 26, 1893, Bessie Coleman was destined for greatness. She was the 12th of 13 children.

Mrs. Coleman seemed born with a driving force to learn and better herself. She finished high school and wanted to attend college, but her family could not afford to send her. Mrs. Coleman was able to keep the money she made from washing and ironing. She attended Langston Industrial College, which is now Langston University, for one semester before her money ran out.

Always an avid reader, she began to read everything she could on aviation. She exhausted every avenue to obtain flying instruction in the United States, but there were two strikes against her: She was black and she was a woman.

She eventually made two trips to Europe, where she studied under the best European fliers. The chief pilot for Germany's Fokker Aircraft Co. was one of her instructors.

Mrs. Coleman made two trips to Europe, but the second time she returned, in 1922, she returned as the only black female pilot in the world.

Her first flying exhibition in 1922 was at Checkerboard Field (now Chicago's Midway Airport). She also lectured on aviation in churches and movie houses, instilling, some say, an unprecedented interest by blacks in aviation.

Bessie Coleman's greatest dream was to start her own aviation instruction school. But on April 30, 1926, at 7:30 p.m., while flying at an altitude of 3,500 feet, her plane went into a nose dive and never came out.

Determination, skill, courage and sacrifice were only a few of the characteristics displayed by Bessie Coleman, and they will still work today for whoever dares to apply them to their own lives. Harambee!

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