Many of my teachers, family, and friends have lamented that February is just too short to truly honor black history. I have learned on this Sportsmanship in Black journey that they are both right and wrong. February is too short to truly honor the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans to our great nation. It’s also true that any month would be too short to honor black history. As Dr. King’s dream is deeply rooted in the American Dream, African-American history is deeply rooted in American history. I was going over my list of historic figures this morning. There are more people to profile than I have days left to profile them. Please don’t let February 28th be the last day you study black history this year. Please don’t let this blog be your only source for black history information. History in general is not something you should pull out of the basement once a year like a Christmas tree. It’s a gift we should take advantage of year-round. To know where we’re going, we have to know where we’ve been.
Olympic gold-medalist, Alice Coachman is the subject of today’s feature. Alice Coachman was born November 9, 1923 in Albany, Ga. to Fred and Evelyn Coachman. She was the first person in her family to graduate from high school. Coachman went on to earn a nursing degree from Albany Normal & Agricultural College (now Albany State University). However, her exploits in track and field made her legendary. Coachman won every national championship in the high jump between 1939 and 1948. She also managed to squeeze in several more titles in the 50 meters, 100 meters, the 400 meter relay and two junior college basketball championships over that time. She would have most certainly made the U.S. Olympic Team in 1940 and 1944, but the games were canceled due to World War II.
Coachman waited for her Olympic moment and it came in 1948. She became the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal when she defeated Great Britain’s Dorothy Tyler in the high jump. Before Wilma, Jackie, Flo-Jo, or Marion, there as Alice. She carved a new path for women and African-Americans in sports. In 1994, she founded the Alice Coachman Track & Field Foundation which provides financial and healthcare support services to young athletes. Coachman realized that while her journey proved successful, many others were left behind due to a lack of resources. The following video series was produced by the National Visionary Leadership Project (Email subscribers click here). Coachman gives insight on everything from her upbringing to winning the gold in London. She is a tremendous lady and I’m proud to celebrate her life and legacy. Until next time…
Be a Good Sport!