Queen Bess, by Doris Rich

Queen Bess, by Doris Rich


Doris Rich talks about the life of Bessie Coleman who made achievements in her life despite the fact that she was an African American woman. Bessie is renowned as the first African-American woman who rose beyond racial discrimination and gender inequality to obtain a pilot license recognized internationally. Due to a lot of literature about Bessie Coleman, Rich has collected information from friends, relatives and eyewitnesses including clips and few letters written by Bessie to come up with enough and useful information about Bessie (Rich, 2009). Bessie Coleman was also called queen Bess. The life history of Bessie shows qualities that are necessary in society to fight for equality among all race as well as gender equality. This paper reviews the book Queen Bess by Doris Rich and gives an in-depth analysis of the book.

Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas, in the year 1892. Coleman lived a happy childhood that later changed when her father, a laborer, went out of Texas to go and look for a better job. This made her learning discontinuous where she could work in picking cotton and at the same time do household chores. However, Bessie is portrayed as one who was determined to achieve her desires. Therefore, through motivation, Bessie went to Chicago to train as a manicurist. This work did not meet her ambitions even though it had good money and it had enabled her to create contacts with black leaders (Rich, 2009). Therefore, the life style and background of Bessie molded her to advocate for equality because the White Americans had created racial segregation s that denied black people accessibility to important facilities.

The motivation behind Coleman’s desire to become a pilot emerged when she heard about French women who were pilots. Therefore, Coleman decided that to become a pilot would provide her a chance to be noticed. Nevertheless, she was not able to train in the United States of America and due to her resourcefulness, she was assisted financially to go to France and train as a pilot. In 1921, Coleman secured a piloting license. She returned home and was celebrated, flew during air shows and performed courageous aerobatics. Thus, she was described as the greatest woman pilot of the world. This brought about the issues of black people being encouraged to train as pilots. However, due to various factors such as racial segregation, sexism and many accidents, Coleman’s life became difficult and frustrated her achievements that would have made her more respected for realizing a dream (Rich, 2009).

The main idea of the book is equality of all persons. This occurs in the book by showing that queen Bess was able overcome poverty, racial segregation, and gender inequality in order to become an important and popular person in society. Bessie succeeded in achieving her dream and thus became a national celebrity. She thus attracted the attention of both the blacks and the whites. White Americans had always propagated racial discrimination but through Bessie’s achievements, they were able to recognize that black Americans had the capacity to achieve their ambitions provided they were given opportunities they needed. Moreover, through lectures and performance shows, she campaigned for gender equality. Therefore, the writer has used theoretical framework to cushion his arguments in that the issues of social justice is brought out through the author main idea of equality for all persons.

Rich writes about Bessie as one who could not attend flying shows where blacks were not allowed. In fact, Bessie had the idea of raising money to start a school to train blacks on how to fly. Bessie participated actively in fighting for the African-Americans’ rights. She enhanced black pride and abhorred the manner in which white Americans upheld racial dominance (Rich, 2009). Therefore, the author has used racial discrimination as an historical evidence to show how Bessie became a threat to whites’ stereotype. When there was no white American to train Bessie how to fly, Bessie went to France to train. Thus, the author has given an explicit evidence of racial discrimination in America.

To show the need for gender equality, Bessie was the first African-American woman to be a licensed pilot who could fly airplanes anywhere in on earth. Therefore, she broke black men’s chauvinism, who believed that women are weak and cannot perform important tasks in the society. Thus, the author has given convincing ideas concerning the significance of Bessie toward the realization of equality not only among the races but also across the sexes. Therefore, the activities of Bessie can be considered as part of the foundation upon which the liberation of blacks was developed. For instance, later years show black rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr who championed the realization of equal civil rights to allow black Americans to participate in national progress. King, just like Bessie, had a dream of Blacks being liberated from racial discrimination. Therefore, the book contributes to our understanding of history by stimulating our mind to think about black Americans who fought against inequality in America and made it the way it is presently.


The book, Queen Bess, by Doris Rich elaborates the life history of Bessie Coleman and her achievements. Bessie was the first black woman to overcome racial discrimination and gender inequality in order to obtain a license to fly airplanes in any part of the world. She advocated for equality among all races and sexes. This is shown from her ability to become a pilot even though she was a woman. Thus, she stood for gender equality and changed the attitudes of black men who did not respect women. Moreover, Bessie changed the white Americans’ attitude toward blacks. This she did by avoiding shows that did not allow black Americans. Thus, she enhanced the pride of black people by fighting for equality. Bessie contributed toward equality and as such, she is a historical black figure who championed African-American rights.


Rich D. L. (2009). Queen Bess: daredevil aviator. Smithsonian Institution Press.


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