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A Novel Inspired by Pioneer Aviatrix Bessie Coleman

A Pair of Wings is a novel based on the life of pioneer aviatrix Bessie Coleman. Arriving in Chicago in 1915 from Waxahachie, Texas, Coleman is among the first wave of African Americans to take part in the Great Migration, the largest movement of Black people fleeing the oppression of the agricultural South for greater freedom and the promise of jobs in the industrialized North. 


Because no one in the United States will teach an African American woman to fly, Coleman learns to speak French and travels to France where she learns from some of the best flyers and designers of Great War aeroplanes. After her initial training, she is awarded the French civilian aeronautic brevet, which entitles her to pilot a plane anywhere in the world. As the 1920s progress, both aviation and the Great Migration continue in parallel, and Coleman becomes the only woman in the world to contribute to both. She returns to Europe a second time for training in aerobatic maneuvers. And just as Coleman translated deftly between French and English, once home she converts the aerial life-saving and death-dealing tactics of the dogfighters of the Great War into daring and graceful barnstorming performances that dazzle and amaze her audiences. 


Through her tenacity and resilience, this fearless woman overcame cultural, racial, and economic obstacles in order to learn to fly. A full century after her accomplishments, Bessie Coleman continues to inspire. Her story is brought to life by author and pilot Carole Hopson. It is Coleman's bold determination and courage that lifted an entire people, and Hopson as well, upon A Pair of Wings.


In order to support others in the pursuit of their dreams of flight, Hopson has created the 100 Pairs of Wings Project, which aims to send one hundred Black women to flight school by 2035. Twenty percent of the proceeds from the sale of each book will support this cause. 

Book no.1


Hopson, a former journalist, wanted to tell Bessie’s story in a way that hadn’t been done before, as a historical novel. When she made the choice to do so, she enabled the pilot’s story to come to life in a magical and compelling way. She also laid bare what Coleman faced. Perhaps you’ve heard how the young woman couldn’t take flying lessons in the U.S. because of her skin color—so she went to France to find a way? 


There’s so much more to it than that. Hopson registers the determination, the highs and lows, and the ugly truths to Coleman’s journey. 


It’s a tale of perseverance we can all learn from, indeed.

Flying Magazine
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