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New Doll Honors an Early Pilot

A new Barbie doll has been created to celebrate the life of a talented pilot named Bessie Coleman.


Bessie Coleman was the first Black American woman to earn a pilots’ license.

A new Barbie doll has been created to celebrate the life of a talented pilot named Bessie Coleman. Coleman was the first Black woman in the United States to earn a license to fly a plane.

The Bessie Coleman doll is dressed in a green aviator suit. (Early pilots were often called aviators, which means “fliers.”) Gigi Coleman is Bessie Coleman’s grandniece. She worked with Mattel, the company that makes Barbie dolls, to create the Bessie doll. 

“We hope through this doll more people will discover Bessie’s story and be inspired,” Gigi Coleman said.

A doll in early 20th century aviator clothing stands in front of a toy propeller plane.

© Mattel

The Bessie doll was created to honor the life of Bessie Coleman.

Bessie Coleman was born in 1892 in Texas. She was a child when the first planes were flown, and as she got older, she decided she wanted to be a pilot. But at the time, flying schools in the U.S. would not teach women, and they would not teach Black people. Coleman moved to France, where she earned a pilot’s license in 1921. 

Coleman became a stunt flier at public shows, performing tricks like flying her plane in a figure eight. People began to call her Brave Bessie. She toured the country, doing flight shows and giving speeches. She would not perform unless Black people were allowed to be in the audience.

Coleman died in an accident in 1926. Today her story lives on. The Bessie Coleman doll is just one way she is celebrated.

A woman holds a Bessie Coleman doll and poses with six women in airline uniforms.

© Mattel

Bessie Coleman’s grandniece, Gigi Coleman (center) took a flight with an all Black woman crew to celebrate the new doll.


Earthquake in Turkey and Syria

Louai Beshara—AFP/Getty Images

Rescue teams worked at the site of a fallen building in Syria after a major earthquake struck on February 6, 2023.

On the morning of February 6, 2023, a powerful earthquake shook the nations of Turkey and Syria. Just hours later, there was another quake. The shaking caused buildings to fall. Many people died.   

Governments and others from around the world are sending medical workers, supplies, and food to the area. Many individuals are also stepping up to help. In Washington, D.C., people brought boxes full of supplies to the Turkish embassy—the home of Turkey’s representative in the U.S. Reginald Jamison was one of the people who brought supplies. 

“When you see people in need, that’s the proper thing to do,” Jamison told WTOP News.

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Did You Know?

Bill Larkins (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This plane is a lot like the one that James Herman Banning and Thomas C. Allen flew across the United States.

In 1932, James Herman Banning and Thomas C. Allen became the first Black Americans to fly across the United States.

Celebrate Black History Month!

February is Black History Month. Here are just a few Black Americans you might want to read about. You can learn more about them at Britannica School!

Barbara Johns (1935–1991).

Part of a sculpture showing Barbara Johns protesting with her classmates, one holding a sign saying, “We want equal education.”

Frank Tozier/Alamy

This sculpture was made to honor Barbara Johns and others who worked for civil rights.

In 1951, schools in the southern United States were segregated. That means there were separate schools for Black and white students. Government leaders did not give Black schools as much money to pay for repairs. So the school that Barbara Johns went to was not as nice as the schools that white students attended. When Johns was 16, she led students out of her school as a way of saying this needed to change. She helped make change happen. A few years later, schools were no longer allowed to be segregated.

John Lewis (1940–2020).

Portrait of John Lewis outdoors with the Capitol Building in the background.

Courtesy of the office of U.S. Representative John R. Lewis

Congressman John Lewis spent much of his life working for equal rights.

John Lewis was an important person in the civil rights movement. In 1965, he led a march in Alabama. The marchers wanted more Black Americans to be allowed to vote. Lewis later became a member of the U.S. Congress. He spent his life working so that people were treated more fairly.

Amanda Gorman (born in 1998).

Amanda Gorman speaks at a podium.

Pool/Getty Images News

Amanda Gorman read her poem when President Joe Biden was inaugurated.

Amanda Gorman started writing poems when she was a child. When she was 17, she wrote her first book of poetry. She was named the National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017. That means she was the most important young poet in the United States. In 2021, Gorman appeared at the presidential inauguration, when the new president was sworn in. There, she read her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

A Fearless Flyer

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

There’s more to learn about Bessie Coleman.

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Word of the Day


Part of speech:



: the business or practice of flying airplanes, helicopters, etc.

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