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8/1/2014 - Meet Bessie Coleman at County Library

Meet Bessie Coleman at the Cumberland County Library

    On Saturday, August 16, the Cumberland County Library in Bridgeton, NJ will host a free public presentation, “Bessie Coleman: Fly Bessie, Fly”. Scholar and actor Dr. Daisy Century of The American Historical Theatre will portray Bessie Coleman in an hour long performance including time for questions and answers from the audience. This free presentation begins at 2 p.m. in the library’s Meeting Room, in the lower level of the library.

The first African-American woman to become a licensed airplane pilot and the first American to hold an international pilot license, Bessie Coleman was a woman who didn’t give up. Born in Texas and raised on a farm, she loved school and walked four miles every day to attend a one-room all-black school through 8th grade. Working with her mother and two sisters, she did laundry, cleaned homes, and picked cotton to earn money so she could finish school. At age 18, she enrolled in the Oklahoma Colored Agricultural Normal University, but she only had enough money for one year. Traveling north to Chicago to live with her brothers, she heard stories from pilots returning from World War I and decided to become a pilot. After applying to three American aviation schools that refused to teach her, this smart, naturally-gifted woman didn’t give up. Learning enough French to get by, she enrolled in a French school, the only black person in the class, and finished the 10-month course in 8 months.

Dressed in an authentic bomber’s jacket, boots and scarf, Dr. Daisy Century as Bessie Coleman is an exciting portrayal of a beautiful, determined woman who knew what she wanted and made it happen. Performed as if standing on a wing of the plane, Bessie thrills audiences with tales of barnstorming and stunts with parachutes, and inspires the audience to identify with a woman who risked everything to make her dream a reality.


Dr. Century is a published author, writing under the name Emily Nelson, and is an accomplished singer. Dr. Century has appeared in venues that include the National Defense Organization, Belmont Mansion, National Archives, Sojourner Truth House, Theodore Roosevelt National Historic Site, the Helicopter Museum, and numerous schools, libraries, museums and historic sites throughout New Jersey.

Funding for this program was paid in part by the New Jersey Historical Commission/Department of State and the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders through the Cumberland County Cultural and Heritage Commission

Cumberland County Library is located at 800 E. Commerce St., Bridgeton, NJ  08302.  Call 856-453-2210 Ext. 103 for further information.