Press Release

For Immediate Release: February 4, 2021

Union County Celebrates Black History Month with Pioneering Aviator Bessie Coleman, February 23

Performance can be viewed live on Facebook and Zoom

Union County, NJ — The Union County Board of Commissioners is pleased to celebrate Black History Month with a free, live performance of An Interview with Bessie Coleman, an exploration of the life and times of the first African-American woman to become a licensed airplane pilot and the first American to hold an international pilot license.

The performance will be streamed live on Tuesday, February 23 at 7:00 p.m., on Facebook and Zoom. The event will include Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Rebecca L. Williams as the special guest interviewer.

“The experiences and accomplishments of African-Americans have defined the course of history in America for hundreds of years,” said County Commissioner Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “The County of Union is proud to support events like these as they not only demonstrate the important of Black History Month to all of us but inspire us to seek a future where racial discrimination is a thing of the past.”

“I am delighted to be taking part in An Interview with Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license. The more residents learn about the contributions of black Americans to our nation, the more aware we are of the need to continue the push towards equity and justice for all. Performances like these will help us achieve that,” said Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Williams.

Bessie Coleman overcame multiple barriers to realize a lifelong dream and make her mark in the early years of aviation history.

Bessie Coleman was born in Texas, 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, picked cotton to earn money to finish school. At age 18, she enrolled in the Oklahoma Colored Agricultural Normal University, but 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 “double threat” prepared to study in France. Learning enough French to get by, she enrolled in a French school, the only black person in the class. Finishing the 10-month course in eight months, she achieved her goal.

An Interview with Bessie Coleman is presented by the acclaimed historical interpreter, actress, educator and writer Dr. Daisy Century. 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. A trailblazing pilot, Coleman overcame adversity and discrimination to make history. Audience members thrill to tales of barnstorming and stunts with parachutes, and identify with a woman who risked everything to make her dream a reality.

To view An Interview with Bessie Coleman on Union County’s Facebook page, visit facebook.com/countyofunion.

To view on Zoom, pre-registration is required. The registration link is available through Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_-pyzj9jDTOC4SzeVJLssUw.

On both platforms, viewers will be able to enjoy the live performance free of charge, and participate by using the chat functions.

The performance is organized through the Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs in the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation, and is funded in part by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a Division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State.

Additional details about An Interview with Bessie Coleman are available at ucnj.org/black-history-month.

For more information on all programs of the Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs call (908) 558-2550, email culturalinfo@ucjnj.org, or visit online at https://ucnj.org/cultural.

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For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

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