The Front Blog

Conversations from the Four Rivers Region

Datebook: January 26 – Bessie Coleman Turns 120

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Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was born on January 26, 1892 (and died April 30, 1926). She was the first female pilot of African American descent and the first person of African American descent to hold an international pilot license. Inspired by tales of WWI fighter pilots, she dreamed of taking to the skies. Being African American and a woman, she was refused admittance in American flight schools, so she learned French and went to Paris, since women were already pilots there. On June 15, 1921, Coleman became the first African American woman in the world to earn an aviation pilot’s license. She realized a career in exhibition flying and became a media sensation as “Queen Bess” when she returned to the U.S. She was called “the world’s greatest woman flier” and performed daredevil maneuvers to massive crowds over New York and Chicago. At a show in Jacksonville, Florida, while attempting to pull out of a dive, the aircraft got stuck plummeting to the ground. She was thrown from her seat 500 feet above and died on impact. It was later found that a wrench had gotten stuck in the gearbox.

It’s Thursday, January 26

Dr. Matthew Gianforte, pianist and assistant professor at Murray State, presents a recital titled “Musical Tributes” tonight at 7:30 in the Performing Arts Hall of the Doyle Fine Arts Building. The free concert features works by Robert Schumann, Frederic Chopin, and Franz Liszt.

A screening of the documentary American Teacher takes place tomorrow at 11AM in the Alexander Hall auditorium on the campus of Murray State. The documentary chronicles the stories of four teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers, offering a deeper look at the teaching profession in America today. The screening is free and open to the community.

The Paducah Symphony Orchestra’s second annual “Made in America” concert takes place on Saturday at 4PM at Harrison Street Baptist Church in Paducah. Hear African American spirituals, art music, and hymns. Admission is $10 for adults and free for students. Purchase tickets from the PSO office at 444-0065.

Find more community events online at


Written by Matt Markgraf

January 26, 2012 at 12:03 pm

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