ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE   A-CD-GH-LM-RS-Z

Alice Coachman
National Visionary


Born November 9, 1923 in Albany, Georgia

First African American woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal








BIOGRAPHY
On July 29, 1948, Alice Coachman was the first African American woman to win a gold medal in the Olympics. Competing in the high jump event in the London Olympic Games, she made history with her record five-foot-six- and one-eighth-inch jump. She was the only American
woman to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics in 1948. After being awarded her medal by the King of England, she returned home where she continued to be lauded. She met President Harry S. Truman, and the city of Albany, Georgia held a parade in her honor.


Coachman as a young woman

Listen to a NPR
piece on
Coachman using
our material.
Coachman was born on November 9, 1923 in Albany, Georgia, the fifth of 10 children born to Fred and Evelyn (Jackson) Coachman. As a child, she was drawn to athletics, but was denied access to public training facilities because of segregation polices. Determined to hone her athletic abilities, Coachman ran barefoot on the back roads of Georgia and devised all sorts of makeshift set-ups to jump over — from strings and ropes to sticks and tied rags.

Coachman also had to overcome her parents’ belief that she should focus her energies on a more “ladylike” path instead of pursuing her desire to become an athlete. She convinced them to allow her to attend the Tuskegee Institute High School as a scholarship student. At Tuskegee, she won her first national women’s outdoor high jump championship. She would win this event every year through 1948 — a record that held through the 1990s.


This interview has
been archived in the
NVLP Collection of
African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
Center
After graduating from high school, she continued to work and train vigorously while attending college at Tuskegee. In 1947 she transferred to Albany State College and tried out for the 1948 Olympic track and field team. She made the team, and traveled to London. After her historic win, she retired from competition, and enjoyed a career as a physical education teacher and coach.

Although she stopped competing in her mid-20s, the sports world did not forget her accomplishments. Coachman has been honored with prestigious memberships in eight halls of fame, including the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and the Albany Sports Hall of Fame. In 1994, she founded the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation, and organization supported by Olympic athletes, both aspiring and retired.

VIDEO CLIPS

EXTERNAL LINKS
Alice Coachman's Wikipedia Page

RELATED LINKS
John Woodruff's Visionary Page (1936 Olympic Gold Medalist)

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/coachmanalice

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