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PEOPLE IN AMERICA - Bessie Coleman

时间:2005-09-29 16:00来源:互联网 提供网友:wbnewbie   字体: [ ]

PEOPLE IN AMERICA -February 17, 2002: Bessie Coleman

By Vivian Bournazian
I'm Shirley Griffith
And I'm Ray Freeman with the VOA Special English program, People in America. Today we tell about Bessie

Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot.




Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas, in the eighteen-nineties. She was the sixth of nine
children. Her mother was African American. Her father was part African-American and part
American Indian. Her family was poor. Bessie had to walk four miles to go to school. When
she was nine years old, her father left the family to search in Oklahoma for the territory of his
Indian ancestors.

In Texas then, as in most areas of the American South, blacks were treated unfairly. They lived separately from
white people and established their own religious, business and social traditions. Bessie was proud of her race. She
learned1 that from her hard-working and religious mother.


Bessie had to pick cotton and wash clothes to help earn money for her family. She was able to save a little money
and went to college in the state of Oklahoma. She was in college only a year. She had to leave because she did
not have enough money to complete her studies. But during that year, she learned about flying from reading
about the first flight of the Wright Brothers and the first American woman pilot, Harriet Quimby. Bessie often
thought about what it would feel like to fly like a bird.


Bessie Coleman moved to Chicago. There, she learned to make people's hands look beautiful. She was good at it,
but she wanted to do something more important. She decided2 she was going to learn how to fly airplanes.

She soon found this to be almost impossible. What flight school would admit a black woman. She found that
apparently3 there were none in the United States. Bessie learned that she would have more of a chance in Europe.
She began to study French at a language school in Chicago. She also took a higher-paying job supervising4 a
public eating place so she could save money.

((Music Bridge))


Soon after the end of World War One, Bessie left for France. She attended the famous flight school, Ecole
d'Aviation des Freres Caudron, in the town of Le Crotoy in northern France. She learned to fly in a plane that had
two sets of wings, one over the other. She completed seven months of flight training.

Bessie earned her international permit to fly in nineteen-twenty-one from the Federation5 Aeronautique
Internationale in France. She became the first black woman ever to earn an international pilot's license6.


Bessie returned to Chicago. She was the only black female7 pilot in the United
States. So her story became popular in African-American newspapers. She was
asked by the Dallas Express newspaper why she wanted to fly. She said that women
and blacks must have flyers if they are to keep up with the times. She added, "Do
you know you have never lived until you have flown?"

Bessie soon learned that it was difficult for anyone to earn enough as a pilot to live.

She knew she would have to improve her flying skills and learn to do more tricks in
the air if she wanted to succeed. There still was no one willing to teach her in Chicago. So, she returned to
Europe in nineteen-twenty-two. She completed about four more months of flight training with French and
German pilots.


Bessie returned to New York where she gave her first public performance in the United States on September
third. A large crowd of people gathered to watch her. She rolled the plane. And she stopped the engine and then
started it again just before the plane hit the ground. The crowd loved her performance, as did other crowds as she
performed in towns and cities across the country.

Bessie Coleman had proved she could fly. Yet she wanted to do more. She hoped to establish a school for black
pilots in the United States. She knew she needed a plane of her own. She traveled to Los Angeles, California,
where she sought the support of a company that sold tires. The company helped her buy a Curtiss JN4 airplane,
commonly called a Jenny. In return, she was to represent the company at public events.


Bessie Coleman organized an air show in Los Angeles. But the jenny's engine stopped soon after take -off, and
the plane crashed to the ground. Bessie suffered a broken leg and other injuries. She regretted the accident and
felt she had disappointed her supporters. She sent a message: "tell them all that as soon as I can walk I'm going to

Bessie returned to Chicago where she continued her plan to open a flying school. She had very little money, no
job and no plane, yet she opened an office in Chicago. She soon found it was impossible to keep the office open
without more financial support. So she decided to return to flying.


Early in nineteen-twenty-five, Bessie Coleman traveled to her home state of Texas. The former cotton picker and
beauty technician8 now was the only licensed9 black woman pilot in the world. She could speak French. And she
was an international traveler.

((music Bridge))


To earn money, Bessie Coleman gave speeches and showed films of her flights in churches, theaters and at local
all-black public schools. She organized more air shows. She soon had enough money to pay for some of the cost
of a plane of her own, another old Curtiss Jenny. She continued her speeches and air shows in the state of
Georgia, then in Florida. She soon hoped to have enough money to open her school.

In Florida, Bessie met Edwin Beeman, whose father was the head of a huge chewing gum10 company. Mr. Beeman
gave Bessie the money to make the final payment11 on her plane in Dallas. Bessie made plans to have it flown to
her in Jacksonville. A young white pilot, William Wills, made the trip. But the old Jenny had problems. William
had to make two stops during the short flight to repair the plane. Local pilots who examined the plane were
surprised he had been able to fly it so far.


On April thirtieth, nineteen-twenty-six, Bessie was preparing for an air show in which she would star. She agreed
to make the flight with William Wills. He flew the plane so Bessie could clearly see the field she would fly over.

She did not use any safety devices12, such as a seat belt or parachute. They would have prevented her from leaning
over to see all of the field. During the flight, the plane's controls became stuck. The plane turned over in the air.
Nothing was holding Bessie in. She fell more than a kilometer to her death. William had worn a seat belt. But he
also died when the plane crashed.

Officials later found the cause of the accident. A tool had slid into the controls of the plane. Experts said that the
accident never would have happened if William and Bessie had been flying a newer plane.


Throughout her life, Bessie Coleman had resisted society's restrictions13 against blacks and women. She believed
that the air is the only place where everyone is free. She wanted to teach other blacks about that special

It took some time until her wish was fulfilled14. It was not until nineteen-thirty-nine that black students were
permitted to enter civilian15 flight schools in the United States. It was not until the Second World War that black
male pilots were sent into battle. And, it was not until nineteen-eighty that the first black women completed
military pilot training in the United States.


Bessie Coleman did not live to establish her own flying school. But she had said that if she could create the
minimum16 of her plans and desires, she would have no regrets. She had accepted the dangers of her job because
she loved flying.

Her influence continues today. In nineteen-ninety-two, the Chicago City Council17 passed a resolution praising her.
It said, "Bessie Coleman continues to inspire untold18 thousands, even millions of young persons with her sense of
adventure, her positive attitude and her determination to succeed. "

In his nineteen-thirty-four book, "Black Wings," Lieutenant19 William Powell said, "Because of Bessie Coleman,
we have overcome that which was much worse than racial barriers. We have overcome the barriers within
ourselves and dared to dream."



This Special English program was written by Vivian Bournazian. I'm Shirley Griffith.


And I'm Ray Freeman. Join us again next week for another People in America program on the Voice of America.

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1 learned m1oxn     
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  • In this little village,he passed for a learned man.在这个小村子里,他被视为有学问的人。
2 decided lvqzZd     
  • This gave them a decided advantage over their opponents.这使他们比对手具有明显的优势。
  • There is a decided difference between British and Chinese way of greeting.英国人和中国人打招呼的方式有很明显的区别。
3 apparently tMmyQ     
  • An apparently blind alley leads suddenly into an open space.山穷水尽,豁然开朗。
  • He was apparently much surprised at the news.他对那个消息显然感到十分惊异。
4 supervising d5279d2ad6a17d3600fa632b054358e0     
v.监督,管理( supervise的现在分词 )
  • She had something to do in the house, supervising that native. 她待在家里,究竟还有点儿事情可以做做,可以监视那个土人。 来自辞典例句
  • In addition, nuisance law fails to provide a systematic mechanism for supervising emissions. 另外,妨害法不能提供一个监督排放的系统性机制。 来自英汉非文学 - 环境法 - 环境法
5 federation htCzMS     
  • It is a federation of 10 regional unions.它是由十个地方工会结合成的联合会。
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6 license B9TzU     
  • The foreign guest has a license on the person.这个外国客人随身携带执照。
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7 female 3kSxf     
  • We only employ female workers.我们只雇用女工。
  • The animal in the picture was a female elephant.照片上的动物是头母象。
8 technician AqswV     
  • The technician is busy repairing the machine.技师正忙于修理那台机器。
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9 licensed ipMzNI     
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10 gum MefzN     
  • We can stick these pictures into the book with gum.我们可用胶水把这几张画粘贴在书里。
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11 payment qL4xJ     
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12 devices e0212e54ec3a2a120ca0d321b3a60c78     
n.设备;装置( device的名词复数 );花招;(为实现某种目的的)计划;手段
  • electrical labour-saving devices around the home 节省劳力的各种家用电器
  • modern labour-saving devices such as washing machines and dishwashers 诸如洗衣机和洗碗机之类的现代化省力设备
13 restrictions 81e12dac658cfd4c590486dd6f7523cf     
约束( restriction的名词复数 ); 管制; 制约因素; 带限制性的条件(或规则)
  • I found the restrictions irksome. 我对那些限制感到很烦。
  • a snaggle of restrictions 杂乱无章的种种限制
14 fulfilled 8c45e5e35cbc7441a970964edc5752b9     
adj.满足的,个人志向得以实现的v.满足( fulfil的过去式和过去分词 );执行;尽到;应验
  • He doesn't feel fulfilled in his present job. 目前的工作未能让他感到满足。
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15 civilian uqbzl     
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19 lieutenant X3GyG     
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