Prior to the 1948 Summer Olympics, no American woman had taken the gold medal in any of the competitions. Alice Coachman changed that by soaring 5 feet, 6 1/8 inches’ record in the high jump at the London Games. She made it into the history books as the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
Coachman won the Olympic high jump at the age of 24. “I saw it on the board, ‘A. Coachman, U.S.A., Number One,’” she told NPR. “I went on, stood up there, and they started playing the national anthem. It was wonderful to hear.”
Following Coachman’s success, the United States saw African-American women such as Wilma Rudolph, Evelyn Ashford, Florence Griffith Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee take over the U.S. track and field program and dominate the sport.
“I think I opened the gate for all of them,” she said in an interview with The Telegraph. “Whether they think that or not, they should be grateful to someone in the black race who was able to do these things.”
Here are five things you should know about the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, despite nursing a back injury