Alice Marie Coachman – Black History Month 2023 #BlackHistoryMonth

Alice Marie Coachman winning high jump event US National Womens Track and Field meet 1939

Born in 1923, Alice Marie Coachman Davis was the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Via Womenshistory.org

Alice Coachman was the first Black woman from any country to win an Olympic gold medal. Growing up in the segregated South, she overcame discrimination and unequal access to inspire generations of other black athletes to reach for their athletic goals.

Alice Coachman was born on November 9, 1923 in Albany, Georgia. She was the fifth of ten children born to Fred, a plasterer, and Evelyn Coachman. The family worked hard, and a young Coachman helped. Her daily routine included going to school and supplementing the family income by picking cotton, supplying corn to local mills, or picking plums and pecans to sell. Beyond these tasks, the young Coachman was also very athletic.

When Coachman was a child, it was questionable for women to compete in sports. More “ladylike” sports included tennis or swimming, but many thought women should not compete in sports at all. Coachman’s father subscribed to these ideas and discouraged Coachman from playing sports. He sometimes whipped her for pursuing athletics, preferring that she sit on the front porch and look “dainty.” Neither these social expectations nor her father’s discouragement stopped Coachman. Not only did she run, but she played softball and baseball with the boys. Coachman did not think of pursuing athletics as career, and instead thought about becoming a musician or a dancer. It was her fifth-grade teacher at Monroe Street Elementary School, Cora Bailey, and her aunt, Carrie Spry, who encouraged her to continue running. By seventh grade, she was one of the best athletes in Albany, boy or girl. Yet that did not give her equal access to training facilities. Barred from training with white children or using white athletic facilities, young Coachman trained on her own. She ran barefoot on dusty roads to improve her stamina and used sticks and rope to practice the high jump.

Learn more. Alice Marie Coachman passed away in 2014, her obituary was published in the New York Times


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