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Queen Bess honors the brief but intense life of Bessie Coleman, America’s first female aviator of African American and Native American heritage, who defied the strictures of race, sex, and society in pursuit of a dream. Born in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, Coleman became interested in flying at an early age, but with no flight training opportunities for women or people of color in the United States at the time, she traveled to France to get her aviation license. She then returned to the US and launched a thrilling career, with her daring and dangerous barnstorming and flying-circus performances earning her a high-profile reputation and the nickname “Queen Bess.”
With no significant paper trail, much of Coleman’s life is lost to history. But author Doris L. Rich painstakingly pieced together her experiences using contemporary African American newspapers and interviews with Coleman’s friends and family to offer a remarkable tribute to an overlooked figure of American history. This biography captures the brilliance, determination, and spirit of a pioneering woman whose life was cut tragically short but whose legacy continues to inspire and empower.
By Doris L. Rich. Published by Penguin Random House, 1995. Paperback, 192 pages.