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Spotlight on Inspiring Black Explorers & Travelers

by AIFS Abroad

Throughout history, Black explorers and travelers have charted unknown territories around the world. Unfortunately, many of their stories aren’t famous or well-known. Join us as we pay homage to some of the greatest Black adventurers of the past and present.

Here are the incredible stories of six famous Black explorers: 

1. Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman, seen above, was the first female African American pilot and the first Black person to hold an international pilot’s license. As a Black woman, no flight school in the United States would accept Coleman. Instead, she taught herself French and eventually was accepted into a flight school in France. Bessie Coleman was known for her incredible high-flying stunts – and for not performing at segregated places. Tragically, her life was cut short in a plane crash at the age of 34, but Coleman’s legacy continues to inspire generations in the aviation community and beyond. 

2. Matthew Henson

In 1909, Henson became the first man to reach the North Pole on an expedition with Robert Peary and four Inuit assistants. Henson and Perry went on a total of seven voyages to the Arctic and spent nearly 20 years together on expeditions. 

3. Woni Spotts 

Born in Los Angeles, Woni Spotts became the first verified Black woman to travel to every country and continent in the world. She traveled over a 40-year period and achieved her goal of crossing literally *every* country off her bucket list in 2018. You can learn more about her incredible journey in her autobiography, Letters From Everywhere. 

4. Mario Rigby 

Globetrotter Mario Rigby is a passionate advocate for eco-conscious travel. He is best known for walking the length of Africa from 2015 to 2017. Rigby began his solo journey on the southern tip of the continent, in Cape Town, and walked north for two years until he reached Cairo. You can catch up on his latest adventures on Instagram at @mariorigby

5. Gabby Beckford 

Meet Gabby Beckford, Gen Z travel expert and blogger. Her blog Packs Light focuses on giving young people tips for solo female travel, Black travel, and finding funded opportunities for adventures abroad. Beckford is also a founding board member of the Black Travel Alliance, a non-profit that supports Black travel professionals and advocates for better representation in the industry. 

6. Mae Jemison 

As a doctor, engineer and former NASA astronaut, Mae Jemison has accomplished a lot. In September 1992, Mae Jemison became the first Black woman to travel to space on the 50th shuttle mission. Fun fact: Jemison drew inspiration from another famous Black explorer. On her space mission, she took with her a photo of pioneering aviator Bessie Coleman. 

Feeling inspired?  

Start your own international adventure by studying or interning abroad

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