Bessie B. Stringfield, a.k.a. “BB,” was the first black woman to make eight long-distance solo tours across the U.S. on a motorcycle. In the 1930’s, BB Stringfield rode her hot rod through areas known for racial violence and prejudice. She earned the nickname “The Negro Motorcycle Queen.” On her tours, Bessie Stringfield traveled through Brazil, Haiti and parts of Europe. Her next destination was determined by tossing a penny on a map. As she rode through Jim Crow country, BB would sometimes sleep on her motorcycle with a blanket if there were no safe places for her to stay during her trip.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, BB Stringfield came to America as a child and was given up for adoption. At age 16, she was given a motorcycle by her Irish adoptive mother, who’s name she was not allowed to repeat. It was said that the woman gifted Bessie anything she wanted as long as he prayed to “the man upstairs” for it first. After she was gifted her first 1928 Indian Scout bike, BB Stringfield would later purchase another 27 motorcycles throughout her life.
Throughout her travels, BB performed motorcycle stunts for local carnivals. The press loved her balancing stunt while her Harley was in motion.
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