Google Doodle Celebrates the Legacy of Pioneering Aviator Bessie Coleman

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The letters spelling Google were rendered in the vapor trails of swooping, looping biplanes in a Doodle marking what would be the 125th birthday of aviator Bessie Coleman, Thursday.

Coleman became the first female pilot of African-American descent, and also the first woman of Native American descent, to hold a pilot’s license. And she soared despite the many forces attempting to ground her, Google writes on a page commemorating her life.

After excelling academically at a segregated, one-room Texan school Coleman would walk four miles to reach each morning—all the while helping her sharecropping parents harvest cotton—the would-be pilot moved to Chicago and worked two jobs in order to earn enough to enroll in aviation school.

But despite five years of of saving, she was barred from entering U.S. aviation schools on account of being black and a woman. Undeterred she traveled to Paris where she earned her wings in just one year. She would later return to Europe to train as a stunt pilot when U.S. schools again refused her admission.

As a barnstorming airshow performer “Queen Bessie” wowed American audiences with daring, complex stunts before an equipment failure led to her death at 34.

Coleman had dreamed of opening an aviation school for pilots of color before her life was cut tragically short. Instead, her indomitable spirit inspired generations: “Because of Bessie Coleman, we have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers. We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream,” wrote pioneer aviator and civil rights activist Lieutenant William J. Powell.

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