She was the only woman in her unit and would carry mail and documents between army bases during WWII.
Since receiving that motorcycle when she was a teen, Bessie rode across the United States eight times throughout her life, making her the first African American woman to do so. She moved to Miami in the 1950s and became a licensed nurse.
She also founded a motorcycle club in the city, despite discrimination she had to put up with from a local police officer.
One day, she was pulled over by an officer and told that Black women couldn’t ride motorcycles in Miami. Bessie proved that officer wrong after performing a series of outstanding tricks on her bike, which was how she earned her title as the “Motorcycle Queen of Miami.”
Besides continuing to ride across the United States, Bessie also did international tours on her Harley Davidson motorcycles, stopping in Europe, Brazil, and Haiti.
Bessie passed away at 81 in 1993 due to a heart condition. She was posthumously inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame in 2002.
Bessie defied social norms, marched to the beat of her own drummer, and still inspires women who want to defy the odds.
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