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West Tennessee Mysteries – Bessie Coleman Visits Memphis, TN

3 May

This is the first edition of the West Tennessee Mysteries series and it is coming to us courtesy of Memphis, TN. If you have a mystery you would like to see featured here, please feel free to contact me.

Bessie Coleman’s Memphis Visit

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was the world’s first African American female pilot. On October 12, 1922 Bessie Coleman flew in Memphis, TN in front of a crowd at the Tri-State Fair. Coleman refused to fly for segregated crowds, so her show in Memphis had to be integrated. Thousands of people came out to see Coleman perform and the Memphis show was considered a success. A few mysteries remain about Coleman’s trip to Memphis. While at a luncheon Coleman’s trip was brought to my attention by a woman who was interested in learning more about it. She was interested in knowing where Coleman stayed, what might she have visited while in Memphis, and most importantly she was looking for a photograph from the Memphis event. The Memphis Commercial Appeal had written a short article about Coleman’s visit, but they only used a stock photograph of her and not one from the actual event.

Through looking in the 1922 Polk Memphis City Directory I was able to pull a list of hotels. This directory did not identify which hotels were for African Americans, but I recognized a few of the hotel names.

Marquette Hotel

Plaza Hotel

I also used the directory to find newspapers of this time that might have covered the story.

The Commercial Appeal

The Daily News

The Memphis Press

The News Scimitar

The Southern Sentinel

Labor Review

Progressive Farmer

The last two newspapers probably wouldn’t have carried a story on Coleman’s visit, but they were newspapers available to Memphians at the time.

It makes me wonder if any of the people from our favorite West Tennessee Towns would have made the journey to Memphis, TN to attend the Tri-State Fair and see Bessie Coleman.

So the mystery remains, where did Bessie Coleman sleep while in Memphis? Where did she keep her plane? How long was she in Memphis for the performance? What restaurants, churches, night clubs, or stores would she have visited? Will we ever be able to put together an itinerary of her visit?

I look forward to finding out more about her visit and sharing it with you all.

 

 

– Tiffany

– Source: Google Images