BlackFacts Details

Key African American Women in Sports

Venus Williams (born 1980) and Serena Williams (1981) are sisters who have dominated the sport of womens tennis. Together they  have won 22 Grand Slam titles as singles. They competed against each other in the Grand Slam finals eight times between 2001 and 2009. Each has won an Olympic gold medal, and playing together they have won the gold medal in doubles three times.

 Figure skater Debi Thomas won the 1986 US and then World championship, and took the bronze medal in 1988 at Calgary in a rivalry with Katarina Witt of East Germany.  She was the first African American woman to win a US national title in womens single figure skating, and the first black athlete to win a medal at the Winter Olympics. A premed student at the time of her skating career, she then studied medicine and became an orthopedic surgeon.  She took up a private practice in a coal-mining town, Richlands, in Virginia, where her practice failed, and she let her license lapse. Two divorces and her struggles with bipolar disorder further complicated her life.

Alice Coachman was the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal.  She won the honors in the high jump competition in the London Olympics of 1948. She had transcended discrimination which did not allow colored girls to use trainng facilities in the South. It was a Tuskegee Preparatory School, which she entered at age 16, where her track and field work really had an opportunity. She was also a basketball player in college. She was honored at the 1996 Olympics as one of the 100 greatest Olympians.

After retiring at age 25, she worked in education and with the Job Corps.

National Trust for Historic Preservation