Match Point: 7 Black Female Athletes Who Leveled the Playing Field

October 30, 2012 ‐ By Terri Williams

Overcoming racial and gender barriers – and sometimes, physical limitations – these seven black female athletes displayed determination and grace under fire.  Their pioneering efforts redefined the notion of female athletes, and showed the world that black women could compete and win on any field.

The women’s track and field team leaving for Europe in 1936. Louise Stokes is on the far right. Via Associated Press

Louise Stokes

Born in 1913, Louise Stokes was one of the first two black women to qualify for the Olympics.  In the 1932 Olympic Trials, she placed third in the 100 meters race, which qualified her for a spot on the women’s 400-meter relay team.  However due to the racial climate of that era, Stokes was forced to stand on the sidelines while her white teammates competed in the Los Angeles Olympics.

Four years later, she qualified for the 400-meter relay team that represented America in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but once again, she was replaced by a white runner during the competition. However, her efforts paved the way for future Olympian Alice Coachman.

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  • Shaniquwa

    Marion Jones leveled the field. Sure, leveled with drugs, but leveled non the less.

  • Alleycat

    I feel like this list should have been longer. Althea Gibson, Venus Williams, Lisa Leslie, Dominique Dawes, and Gabby Douglas have distinct accomplishments for black female athletes (First black woman to win a grand slam, first black woman to be ranked number one in tennis, first woman to dunk in the WNBA, first black gymnast to win the all-around individual competition). There’s so much more. I’m just naming things from recent memory.

    • TGarcia

      There are tons more admirable black women in sports and they deserve their due, so thanks for mentioning these. This was meant to be a snapshot and I think the majority of the names included are women who don’t normally get the attention they deserve. Maybe we should do a follow up!

  • Maquxs

    Nobody is going to comment on this story…why because most people don’t care for women’s sports