Publish date:

Black History Month: Alice Coachman Made History as the First Black American Woman to Win Gold


During an era of widespread oppression toward women and African-Americans in sports—and, broadly, all sectors of life—Alice Coachman was forced to practice using makeshift equipment and train shoeless. She became an Olympic gold medalist anyway.

In the 1948 Olympics in London, Coachman set an Olympic record in the high jump, winning a gold medal in the process. She became the first African-American woman to win gold at the Olympics.

Soon afterward, she became a star back home. Coachmen met with former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and President Harry Truman and had parades thrown for her nationwide. She was featured on billboards for Coca-Cola alongside Jesse Owens, becoming the first African-American woman to endorse a major American export.

Her legacy lives on as a pioneer for women and African-Americans in sports. "It encouraged the rest of the women to work harder and fight harder," she told The New York Times in 1996.

SI Recommends