Gabby Douglas and 10 Other African American Pioneers in Sports
These black athletes broke barriers and made history with their impressive athletic abilities. They represented their community.
Notable people have surmounted the difficulties and broken all standards, despite the serious ethnic, cultural and financial obstacles faced by African American athletes through the ages.
These athletes were not only the “first” players in their sport; many felt also a strong responsibility to stand up for and use their fame to promote further inclusion, both on and off the field.
Here are 10 African American athletes who became pioneers in their respective sport:
Gabby Douglas – First Black Gymnast to Win Individual All-Around Champion
Gabby Douglas is a multi-gold medal-winning world champion and Olympians and is dubbed’ The Flying Squirrel’ for her big jumps in competition. In 2012, she was the first color person to become the individual All-round Champion at the London Olympics. In 2012 she made history. Her official website also states that she was’ the first American gymnastics player to win gold in both the gymnastic individual gymnastics and team events at the same Olympics.’ Four years later, Douglas competed at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and assisted her team (including’ The Final Five’) in winning another gold medal for their team event.
Jesse Owens was widely known in his life as the greatest athlete in the history of tracks and fields.
Owens, who had studied at the Ohio state university, was at the “Big Ten Collegiate Track Conference” in Anna Arbor, Michigan, on May 25 1935. He set an impressive five world records.
At the 1936 Berlin Olympic, where Owens would emerge as the most decorated athlete and win four gold medals, Owes continued his supernatural winning series. But maybe more importantly, Owens ‘ triumphs shattered all notions about the belief of Adolf Hitler in white superiority.
Jackie Robinson – First Black Baseball Player in Major League Baseball
On April 15th, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his Brooklyn Dodgers debut and broke the color barrier in baseball for African Americans.
Sports authors Robert Lipsyte and Pete Levine wrote that’ It was the anticipated debut most anticipated in the annals of national pastime. “It was a dream and fear of equal opportunity, and the complexity of the game and the behavior of the Americans would be changed forever.”
Robinson has been one of the most talented and ferocious players in the game after a quiet racial treatment by baseball fans and team members alike. Robinson won the National League Most Valuable Player Award only two years before the Major Leagues. He would continue to team in the 6 World Series and assisted the Dodgers win the 1955 World Series.
On the ground, Robinson wasan anti-racialist and pushed baseball to use its financial impact to dismantle Southern cities and retract more individuals of color into the ranks of the Civil Rights Movement.
Fritz Pollard & Bobby Marshall – First Black Football Players in the NFL
The first African American players to play in NFL were Fritz Pollards and Bobby Marshall in 1920. While Marshall, who played close-end, continued his athletic career not just in the game but also in track, boxing, baseball and ice-hockey, Pollard quickly became an African coach at the NFL, which was another African American first.
Jack Johnson – First Black Heavyweight Boxing Champ
Jack Johnson, known as the “Galveston Giant,” lived without fear as one of America’s most renowned black athletes.
With the Jim Crow era in complete force, Johnson’s match in 1910 with James J. Jeffries, unfailed black enemy was invented as a« battle for the century», and race riots explosed across the nation after Johnson pushed out Jeffries in the 15th lap.
Although he lived in dangerous times, Johnson didn’t flinch when taking advantage of his celebrity. When he wasn’t knocking out his opponents, he was busy expanding his businesses and banking on endorsement deals. He also had a penchant for white women, which eventually landed him in legal trouble (caused by racist laws). After he fled the country for seven years, he returned in 1920 and served jail time in federal prison.
Bill Russell – First Black Coach in the NBA
Bill Russell was widely regarded as the best basketball player on the NBA history for decades until Jordan came on the scene in the 80s, as a legend for his defense, rebounds, and shot-blocking. Russell has helped his team gain 11 championships in 13 seasons as the former center for the Boston Celtics. He became the first Black coach in the NBA and the first NBA champion to win from 1966 onwards. He was also Celtics player coach. At the 1956 Olympics, he also headed the US basketball team for gold.
Charlie Sifford – First Black Golfer in the PGA
There was Charlie Sifford, long before it was Tiger Woods, who was known by the name of golf Jackie Robinson.
Sifford has been restricted to participating in all-black golf events for much of his earlier life, but he tried to join the PGA-sponsored Phoenix Open in 1952 at the request of comedian Joe Louis. He was not too kindly present at the case and he was subjected to numerous death threats.
Nevertheless, Sifford was not to be bullied. In 1961, he joined the PGA Tour and became the first golfer to do so in the African United States. He made 422 tournaments with over fifty top ten finishes and 22 professional victories.
Althea Gibson – First Black Athlete to Compete in International Tennis
Another comparison by Jackie Robinson, Althea was the first African American to take part in a pro-world tennis tour, and in 1956 she won the Grand Slam title as first African American. She won Wimbledon and the US Nationals the following year and in 1958 she repeated her wins. Her career would count 11 Grand Slam victories, six individual awards included.
The sporting achievements of Gibson were regarded revolutionary and, like Robinson’s for baseball, had enormous cultural and psychological implications for the Black community. Serena Williams, a black female tennis player, would win her first U.S. for 40 and 3 years. Open. Opening.
Wilma Rudolph – First American Woman to Win Three Gold Medals at the Olympics
Wilma Rudolph would still be the fastest woman in the world of her generation, although she was diagnosed with polio as a child. Competing in the 1956 Olympics in Australia, Rudolph would take home the bronze in the 4×100-meter relay, but it was in the 1960 Olympics in Rome that she sprinted her way into history by winning three gold medals, becoming the first American woman to accomplish such a feat at a single Olympics.
Rudolph has been a tireless advocate of women’s rights and civil rights, as well as her achievements in this field.
Arthur Ashe – First Black Tennis Player to Win Three Grand Slam Titles
Arthur Ashe is the only male African-American player to have won single titles in the US Open (1968), the Australian Open (1970) and Wimbledon (1975), well-known for his quiet, yet determined attitude. He was the world’s best tennis player that year he earned his first Grand Slam title.
Ashe wasn’t only a tennis player who was a record break but also renowned from the judiciary for his civil rights activism. He helped arrange tennis programs in South Africa for young people in the city and openly denounced apartheid. Ashe spoke of his diagnoses in 1992 and set up an AIDS basis for further studies after having contracted a blood transfusion during a heart process in the eighties. AIDS was founded.
Writer: | Tayo Adebayo