Bessie Coleman Quarter

2023 American Women Quarters Coin Bessie Coleman Line Art Reverse
American Women Quarters

Background

The Bessie Coleman Quarter is the sixth coin in the American Women Quarters™ Program. Bessie Coleman was the first African American and first Native American woman pilot. She was also the first African American to earn an international pilot’s license.

Coleman was born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas during a time of overt racism and segregation laws. After being refused admission into every U.S. flying school she approached, Coleman learned French. She traveled to Paris in 1920 to attend the well-known Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation in Le Crotoy, France. She was the only student of color in her class.

On June 15, 1921, Coleman received her international pilot’s license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. She returned to the U.S. and performed in her first airshow in September 1922. She became known for “loop-the-loops” and making a figure 8.

Coleman used her growing fame to tour the country, giving flight lessons, performing in shows, and encouraging African Americans and women to learn how to fly. She also made a point of refusing to speak or perform anywhere that segregated or discriminated against African Americans.

Bessie Coleman died on April 30, 1926 as a passenger in a practice flight for a celebration in Jacksonville, Florida. Her flying career, although brief, inspires many young African Americans to pursue the field of aviation. Her legacy continues through the establishment of aviation clubs and tributes, including the 1995 U.S. postal stamp issued in her honor.

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Characteristics

The obverse (heads) depicts a portrait of George Washington, originally composed and sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser to mark George Washington’s 200th birthday. A recommended design for the 1932 quarter, then-Treasury Secretary Mellon ultimately selected the familiar John Flanagan design.

The reverse (tails) depicts Bessie Coleman as she suits up in preparation for flight. Her expression is reflective of her determination to take to the skies, the only place she experienced a freedom she did not have on the ground.

Obverse Inscriptions

  • LIBERTY
  • IN GOD WE TRUST
  • 2023

Reverse Inscriptions

  • UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
  • QUARTER DOLLAR
  • E PLURIBUS UNUM
  • BESSIE COLEMAN
  • 6.15.1921, the date Coleman received her pilot’s license

Mint and Mint Mark

Specifications

Composition Weight Diameter Thickness Edge No. of Reeds
Cupro-Nickel
8.33% Nickel
Balance Copper
5.670 g
0.955 in.
24.26 mm
1.75 mm Reeded 119

Artist Information

Obverse
  • Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966)
Reverse
  • Sculptor: Eric David Custer, Medallic Artist
  • Designer: Chris Costello, Artistic Infusion Program
Content last reviewed August 29, 2022

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