Bessie Stringfield is an authentic legend in American motorcycling. Most notably, she became the first Black woman to ride a motorcycle (a Harley-Davidson) across the U.S. in 1930 when she was just 19 years old. Stringfield also worked as a World War II Army dispatch rider and was a carnival stunt rider. She spent her later years in Florida, earning her nickname as “The Motorcycle Queen of Miami” after performing at bike shows and founding the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club. She continued to ride into her 80s before passing away in 1993.
Stringfield was a major force in helping break down barriers for women riders and African-American motorcyclists, and her legacy was burnished in 2000 when the American Motorcycle Association named its award for “Superior Achievement by a Female Motorcyclist” in her honor. Stringfield was inducted into the AMA’s Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002.
Stringfield’s incredible story is celebrated in the upcoming documentary To Myself, With Love, The Bessie Stringfield Story. It chronicles Stringfield’s life as a motorcyclist and includes rare footage, photos, and interviews. Buzz about the film is building after its recent selection to be shown at the AmDocs film festival in Palm Springs, California, March 23-25, 2024.
For more information about the film and Stringfield’s inspirational story, read the press release below.
The first film about Bessie Stringfield, the first Black woman to ride a motorcycle across the United States, is in post-production.
After 4 years of extensive research, the short documentary, To Myself, With Love, The Bessie Stringfield Story, includes newly uncovered photos, restored audio tapes, rare archival footage, and interviews with people that knew her. The film explores Stringfield’s never-before-told story of determination, sacrifice, and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds. And her love for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
The year was 1930 and Stringfield was just 19 years of age when she set off on a journey across the segregated country. Later she embarked on a barrier-busting career as a carnival stunt rider, World War II Army dispatcher, and motorcycle club founder. In the 1950s, she moved to Opa-Locka, Florida where Stringfield continued to ride and make history into her 80s.
The film is produced by Diane Fredel-Weis (Minor Accident of War), Beth Hubbard (Citizen Ashe), and Kim Dawson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Executive Produced by Emmy-Award winning director Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI), and Gabby Revilla Lugo (Illegally Brown).
“Trailblazer, legend Bessie Stringfield showed more mettle and courage than I have ever seen of a motorcyclist,” says Pollard. “This documentary recognizes her important contribution to riding as an African American. This film is a must-see for anyone interested in the ground-breaking achievements of this dynamic lady.”
“We were fortunate to have met and interviewed people that knew Bessie, including a close riding friend of hers and the executor of her estate who provided us with amazing information and material,” says Fredel-Weis, who also directed the film. “We teamed up with the Bessie Stringfield All-Female Ride, a group of 300 motorcyclists inspired by Bessie to ride long distance.
The film, currently in final finishing stages at L.A. post-production studio MOCEAN, is scheduled to enter festival competitions early in 2024.