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In honor of Black History Month, we want to celebrate a few Black female athletes who helped pave the way for all of us. Today, we introduce you to Alice Coachman, who was the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. She competed and won the high jump in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London — her first global competition.
Growing up, Coachman not only was unable to participate in organized sports because of the color of her skin, but also because she was female. According to her biography, she learned how to run barefoot and eventually worked her way onto her high school track team. She was offered a scholarship by the Tuskagee (AL) Preparatory School, where she competed in the Amateur Athletic Union's (AAU) women's national track and field championships. There, she broke college and national records in the 50- and 100-meter races, the 400-meter relay and high jump. She eventually earned degrees from both Tuskagee Institute and Albany College in Georgia.
Coachman was inducted into nine hall of fames, including the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1979, and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004. During the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, she was honored as one of the 100 greatest Olympians. Later in life, she established the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation. You can read more about her here and here.