February Holidays and Observances
Every February we celebrate Black History Month. During this month we often hear the stories of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and many others who played pivotal roles in American History. There are so many others who we don't hear about often enough.
Bessie Coleman, also known as "Brave Bessie" or "Queen Bess" , was the first African-American woman and first Native-American to have a pilots license. She was also the first African-American to hold an international pilots license. in the late 1910's Bessie was denied from all the flight schools she applied for across the United States based on her race and her gender leading her to ultimately decided to move to France to obtain her pilots license. After obtaining her international pilots license in June of 1921 she went on to tour the country giving flight lessons, performing in flight shows, and encouraging African Americans and women to learn how to fly. Bessie was unfortunately killed in a tragic plane crash in 1926 at the young age of 34. Although her life was short, her impact on the aviation world, especially for other Black women, was enormous.
Before we had Venus and Serena, we had Althea. Althea Gibson grew up in Harlem and started her career playing for the American Tennis Association, an African American tennis association developed to sponsor tournaments for Black players. She had early success, winning her first title in 1942 but her success stayed consistent throughout her career, winning 10 consecutive ATA titles from 1947 until 1956. In 1950, Althea became the first Black woman to compete in the US National Championship at Forest Hills in Queens, NY, following that up the next year with becoming the first Black woman to compete at Wimbledon. From that point she went on to win 11 major titles, most falling between 1956 and 1958. Gibson not only broke barriers in the tennis world, she broke them in the golf world as well. In 1963 she became the first Black golfer in the Ladies Professional Golf Association. She played in 171 different golf tournaments until 1977. Althea retired from all sports in 1971.
From the Almanac
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