Day Trips: Bessie Coleman, Atlanta Historical Museum

Texas-born pioneer aviatrix is remembered in her hometown


Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Bessie Coleman of Atlanta (Texas) flew a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" open-cockpit biplane into history. You can sit in a scale model of a Jenny (if you're 4 feet tall or shorter) at the Atlanta Historical Museum.

In the former railroad depot, behind the chamber of commerce's visitor center, the small museum tells the story of the town's development. About 25 miles southwest of Texarkana, the area attracted settlers with the lumber, fertile land, and oil.


Born on Jan. 26, 1892, in a sharecropper's cabin to George and Susan Coleman, Bessie was one of 13 children. Her father was of Cherokee descent and her mother was African-American. Bessie grew up in Waxahachie until at age 23 she migrated to Chicago.

Trained as a manicurist, Bessie took a second job to earn money for flying lessons. At the time, American flight schools would neither accept women nor blacks.

Bessie landed in Paris in 1920 to make her dreams come true. A year later she became the first woman of African-American and Native American descent to earn a pilot's license.


"Queen Bess" returned to the states a celebrity. She joined the barnstorming circuit staging stunt flying shows, including a show in Austin for the governor. Her ultimate goal was to open a school for women and black aviators.

It ended on April 30, 1926, in Jacksonville, Fla., when Bessie was thrown from her crippled aircraft. Among her many honors was a U.S. postage stamp issued in 1995.

The Bessie Coleman display is at the Atlanta Historical Museum at 101 N. East St., in Atlanta, open from 1-4pm, Monday through Friday. Call 903/796-1892 for information.


1,398th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Day Trips
Day Trips: The Cistern, Houston
Day Trips: The Cistern, Houston
Houston’s former underground reservoir perfect canvas for light artist

Gerald E. McLeod, May 25, 2018

Day Trips: Coupland Inn and Dance Hall
Day Trips: Coupland Inn and Dance Hall
Something’s new at the old dance hall and eatery

Gerald E. McLeod, May 18, 2018

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle