On this day 70 years ago, Alice Coachman became the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. The American track and field star won the high jump at the London Games with a leap of 5-ft 6⅛ (1.68m), beating the previous 16-year world record by nearly 3 inches.

Born in Georgia, she ran bare-footed as a child along dirt roads near her home, and later dominating the Amateur Athletics high jump championship, winning ten national titles in a row. She also won national titles in the 50-and-100-meter dash and the 400-meter relay team as a student at the Tuskegee Institute (where she also won three conference championships as a guard on their women’s basketball team). Alice was in her prime during WW II when they canceled the 1940 and 1944 Olympic Games—otherwise, according to one sportswriter, “We would probably be talking about her as the No. 1 female athlete of all time.” WATCH a video… (1948)

Upon her return from the Olympics, Coachman became a celebrity, meeting with President Harry Truman and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was honored with parades and was thrown a party by Count Basie. In ‘52 she became the first…


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