House Recognizes Legacy of Bessie Coleman

Mar 23, 2023
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The Oklahoma House of Representatives commemorated the life of Bessie Coleman, the first African American and Native American woman to earn a pilot's license in the U.S., as part of AERO Day on Wednesday at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Coleman, born in 1892, briefly attended what is now Langston University before earning her pilot's license in 1921 from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in France. After returning to the United States, she launched her career in exhibition flying and parachuting, one of the only options available at the time due to racial and gender biases. She was later called "the world's greatest woman flier." Coleman passed away in 1926 after her plane unexpectedly went into a dive.

Coleman's great niece, Gigi Coleman-Brooms, serves as president and CEO of the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars, which introduces disadvantaged youth to career opportunities in the field of aviation. Coleman-Brooms was honored on the House floor Wednesday afternoon and presented with a state citation from Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, who serves as the chair of the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Transportation.

"Though Bessie Coleman's legacy was sadly cut far too short, she has continued to inspire generations of women with her courage, determination and resilience to overcome challenges and push boundaries," Miller said. "It was an honor to host and visit with Gigi Coleman-Brooms and hear about how she is continuing her great-aunt's legacy."

Rep. Ajay Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Ronny Johns, R-Ada, who serves as chair of the House Transportation Committee, joined Miller and Coleman-Brooms on the floor for the recognition.

“It is truly an honor to join the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission on Aero Day during National Women's History Month along with my colleagues to celebrate the centennial celebration of Oklahoma’s International African American and Native American female pilot Bessie Coleman," Pittman said. "It was a pleasure to meet her great-niece Gigi Coleman-Brooms, who is the CEO of the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars. She does the reenactment to commemorate the accomplishments of her aunt. She is a one woman show who continues to honor the life and legacy of Bessie Coleman, by leading their non-profit organization. We are honored to be able to recognize the accomplishments of both of these dynamic women, their contributions to Oklahoma history and to claim them as Oklahoma Trailblazers. This moment was very special to me as the Vice-Chair of Tourism, a former student of Langston University, and a woman of African American and Native descent, who is making history serving in the House of Representatives."

"It was very exciting to get to know Gigi Coleman-Brooms and learn more about her great-aunt's extraordinary life," Johns said. "I hope each person who learns about Bessie Coleman's amazing accomplishments walks away inspired by her persistence and with a renewed appreciation of one of our nation's historic trailblazers."

Oklahoma House of Representatives seal