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Carole Hopson: "A Pair of Wings"

A riveting, adventurous novel inspired by the life of pioneer aviatrix Bessie Coleman, a Black woman who learned to fly at the dawn of aviation and found freedom in the air.

A few years after the Wright brothers’ first flight, Bessie was working the Texas cotton fields with her family when an airplane flew over their heads. It buzzed so low she thought she could catch it in her hands. Bessie was fearless. She knew there was freedom in those wings.

The daughter of a woman born into slavery, Bessie answers the call of the Great Migration. She moves to Chicago, where she wins the backing of two wealthy, powerful Black men—Robert Abbott, creator and publisher of the Chicago Defender, and Jesse Binga, the founder of Chicago’s first Black bank. Abbott becomes her mentor, while Binga becomes her lover. Her true first love, though, remains flying.

But in 1920, no one in the United States will train a Black woman to fly. So, twenty-eight-year-old Bessie learns to speak French and sets off for Europe. Two years ahead of Amelia Earhart, Bessie earns her pilot's license, and later she learns death-defying stunts from French and German dogfighting combat pilots.

While she finds no prejudice in the air, Bessie wrestles with other challenges on the ground. A plane crash nearly kills her, her brothers seem to be crumbling under the weight of Jim Crow, and, while grappling with tough truths about Binga, Bessie begins to wonder if the freedom she finds in the sky means she must otherwise fly solo.

With tenderness and mastery, Carole Hopson imagines the breathtaking moxie Bessie Coleman harnessed in order to lift herself out of poverty and become known as “Queen Bess.”

About the Author: 

Carole Hopson is a Boeing 737 captain for United Airlines, based in Newark, New Jersey. After a twenty-year career as a journalist and executive for iconic brands like the National Football League, Foot Locker, and L’Oréal, Carole followed her dream to become a pilot. A century after Bessie Coleman soared over seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Black women in the U.S. account for less than one percent of all professional pilots. Inspired by Bessie’s spellbinding accomplishments, Carole founded the Jet Black Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to sending one hundred Black women to flight school by the year 2035.

About the Program: 

  • To attend in person please register here
  • Doors will open to registered attendees at 6 pm. 
  • A local bookseller will be on-site and have books available for purchase.
  • Free parking vouchers are available to program attendees who park at the Franklin Street Garage (15 W. Franklin Street) after 4pm.  Ask Pratt event staff for your parking voucher prior to or after the program. 
  • This free event will be presented in-person and virtually.   

Virtual Meeting Information

There is no registration required for virtual attendance, simply visit the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Facebook or Youtube page. 

Monday, September 9 at 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Central Library, Poe Reading Room
400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

Event Type

Writers LIVE!, Black History, Women's History, Virtual Event

Age Group


Compass Category

Writers LIVE at the Library

Compass Sections

Writers LIVE (including Best & Next Series)

Event Publisher

Cleve Corner, Manager of Speaker & Author Engagement

Digital Signage



tickets required

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