Bessie Stringfield was just 16 when she rode her first motorcycle. Without initially knowing how to operate a motorcycle, she still seemed to be a natural.

Years later, Stringfield started tossing a penny on a map and riding to wherever it landed. At 19 years old, she became the first African-American woman to make a solo motorcycle trip across the US in 1930. She went on to make the journey seven more times, breaking racial and gender barriers along the way.

She was a fearless rider traveling alone through Jim Crow America, but she didn’t let anything stand in her way. On her journeys, she had been nearly run off the road and had experienced other racist attacks. Because many hotels refused to rent to her, she would spend the night with welcoming Black families or in gas station parking lots.

A skilled rider, Stringfield would perform stunts on her motorcycle and competed in races to make money on the way. In one race, she was denied her prize money after she took off her helmet and the organizers found out she was a woman.

Stringfield then shifted careers during World War II when she joined the US Army and worked as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider, transporting documents between army bases. She was the only woman in her unit.

After her military career, Stringfield settled in Miami where she worked as a nurse and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club.

In 1990, the American Motorcyclist Association honored Stringfield in a Harley-Davidson exhibit and by 2000, she won the AMA award “Superior Achievement by a Female Motorcyclist.”

She continued to ride motorcycles up until her death in 1993. She was posthumously inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002.

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