FIRST WOMEN OF COLOR AT THE OLYMPICS

SIMONE MANUEL

Simone Manuel is the First African American Woman to win an individual gold medal in swimming. Her time in the 2016 Olympics of 52.70 seconds set both an American and Olympic record. An amazing feat for a woman who belongs to the meager 1.3% of African Americans who are members of USA Swimming. Manuel is majoring in science, technology and society.

There were other African-American Women who medaled at the Olympics before Simone Manuel and Simone Biles, the gymnast who will carry the U.S. flag at the closing ceremonies. Some of the more famous are:

ALICE COACHMAN–Alice Coachman was the first woman of color to be a member of the U.S. track and field team. She became the First African-American Woman to win an Olympic gold medal in 1948. Her medal in the high jump was the only gold medal for the U.S. Team that year.

WILMA RUDOLPH

 

–Wilma Rudolph was the First American Woman to win three track and field gold medals at the Olympics. A sickly child who wore a brace on her leg as a child, she medaled in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

 

VONETTA FLOWERS–Vonetta Flowers was the first black athlete, male or female, to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. She started her athletic career as a sprinter and long jumper but switched to bobsledding in the 2002 Olympics. She and Jill Bakken won in the first year this event was included in the Olympics for women. (Men had been competing in the bobsled in the Olympics for 70 years by then).

 

DOMINIQUE DAWES–In 1996 Dominique Dawes was the First Black Person of any nationality or gender to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. She was also the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics. During this year’s Olympics she introduced a trailer for an upcoming movie, “Hidden Figures,” which is about three African American women mathematicians who provided critical assistance to John Glenn’s first flight.

Alice Coachman, Olympic Gold Medalist

Alice CoachmALICE COACHMAN OLDERan, the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal, died this week in her hometown of Albany, Georgia. She was 90 years old.

In 1948 Alice Coachman competed in the Olympics and won the high jump at the London Games. Alice believed she reached her peak in 1944 and might have won a gold medal that year, as well as in 1940, had the games not been cancelled because of the Second World War.

 

ALICE COACHMAN ATHLETEBecause of her race, and the fact that she lived in the South, Alice was barred from sports facilities because of her color. She improvised practice facilities, running along dirt roads and across fields. She also participated in other sports. At Tuskegee University, she was on a basketball team that won three straight conference titles.

When she returned from the London Olympics she met President Harry Truman at the White House followed by a 175-mile motorcade through Georgia to celebrate her victory. At the official ceremony in Albany, Georgia, however, the audience in the auditorium was segregated by race, the mayor did not shake her hand, and she was required to leave by a side door. Even her 25 national athletics championships, including 10 consecutive high jump titles could not overcome the color of her skin.

She was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975 and the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004. When her athletic career ended, she remembered her own hardships and created the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation, which provides financial assistance to needy young and retired athletes.