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.
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.