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Pamela Lee Gray

wood carver, sculptor, and folk artist, was born Jesse James Aaron in Lake City, Florida, to descendants of slaves and Seminole Indians. Aaron attended school for less than one year before he was sent to work as a contract laborer for local farms. Trained as a baker when he was twenty-one years old, he found he enjoyed the creativity it required. He opened several bakeries, worked as a cook at Gainesville's Hotel Thomas from 1933 to 1937, and then cooked for a variety of fraternities and hospitals in Florida. Aaron also worked as a cook aboard the Seaboard Air Line Railroad during this time.

Aaron married Leeanna Jenkins, and when the family settled in northwest Gainesville in the 1930s they opened a nursery. From this point until 1968 when Aaron became a folk artist at the age of eighty one it is difficult to determine what is ...

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Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

Tuskegee athletic coach, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, to Elbert B. Abbott, a stonemason, and Mollie (Brown) Abbott. Abbott grew up in Watertown, South Dakota, attending Watertown public schools, where he was a superior student and athlete. He graduated from high school in 1912 with an unheard-of sixteen Arrow letters in athletics.

Abbott entered South Dakota State College in Brookings, South Dakota, in the fall of 1912, selecting a dairy science major and joining the athletic program. His outstanding athletic and academic performance attracted the attention of the college president Ellwood Perisho, an acquaintance of Booker T. Washington Washington promised Abbott a job at Tuskegee contingent on his continued scholastic excellence Abbott did not disappoint maintaining his high marks and earning fourteen athletic letters in four years in track football baseball and basketball In this last he played center captained the team and was named All ...

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Haggai Erlich

Ethiopian athlete, was born on 7 August 1932 in Jato, a village located some eighty miles from Addis Ababa, outside the town of Mendida in Shewa Province. His father died before he was born, and young Abebe was adopted by Bikila Demisse, a shepherd. Having completed his studies at age twelve at the local traditional school, he followed in his adopted father’s footsteps. At the age of twenty, he decided to venture out of peasantry and made his way on foot to the capital, to join the Imperial Bodyguard. In 1954 he married Yewibdar Welde-Giyorgis, with whom he fathered four children. He distinguished himself as a talented player of gena, a traditional Ethiopian hockey game, but remained an anonymous soldier until the age of twenty-four. At that time, while guarding the departure of the Ethiopian delegation to the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne he decided to begin competing ...

Article

Steven B. Jacobson and William A. Jacobson

sprinter, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the eldest of five children of Samuel Ashford, a non-commissioned U.S. Air Force officer, and Vietta Ashford, a homemaker. Because of her father's service assignments, the family lived a nomadic lifestyle before settling in Roseville, California, where Ashford was the only girl on Roseville High's boys track team. She earned her spot by beating the school's fastest boys. Ashford's precocious world-class speed was obvious by her senior year, when she recorded times of 11.5 and 24.2 seconds, respectively, in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.

Ashford entered UCLA in September 1975 with an athletic scholarship. She soon qualified for the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada, and there, at nineteen, she qualified for the finals and was the top U.S. finisher in the 100 meters, finishing fifth in 11.24 seconds. Ashford was a collegiate all-American in 1977 and 1978 She ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born Jane Kimberly Batten, in McRae, Georgia, the daughter of Ella Jean Batten. In 1976 her family moved to Rochester, New York, where she participated in basketball, track and field, and volleyball at the city’s East High School. Principally a long and triple jumper on the track and field team, Batten also competed in the 400-meter hurdles, posting times of 61.1 seconds in 1986 and 60.94 seconds in 1987. She graduated East High in 1987, ranked third in the nation in the triple jump.

Recruited by several colleges to compete in the triple jump, Batten selected Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee. For the Seminoles, she competed in the 100, 200, and 400 meters; 100- and 400-meter hurdles; long jump and triple jump; and the 4 × 100- and 4 × 400-meter relays. Indoors in 1988 Batten finished thirteenth in the triple jump at the National ...

Article

slalom kayaker and first Togolese winner of an Olympic medal, was born in Lagny-Sur-Marne, France, on 4 August 1981. The son of a Togolese father and a French mother, he grew up in the department of Seine et Marne near Paris. When he was only ten years old, his parents introduced him to the sport of slalom kayaking. They placed their son in a kayak club in their hometown of Lagny-Sur-Marne. He passed his baccalaureate examinations and chose to turn his love for kayaking into a career. Boukpeti excelled at this sport, to the point that he was selected to join a training center in the French city of Toulouse. He also commenced his undergraduate studies in biology, and he received an undergraduate degree in cellular biology and animal physiology from Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse.

He first entered international competition at the 16th annual world kayaking championship in ...

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Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Zola Budd was seventeen years of age in 1984 when she set an unofficial world record for the 5000-meter race with a time of 15 minutes, 1.83 seconds. At that time South Africa was barred from international sport because of its policy of Apartheid, so Budd adopted British citizenship in order to qualify for the 1984 Olympic Games. This move caused a good deal of controversy because it allowed a white South African athlete to defy the ban and appear in international competitions. At the 1984 Games Budd gained international attention when in the last lap of the 3000 meter race American runner Mary Decker Slaney the world record holder in the 3000 meter and the favorite to win tripped on Budd s foot and fell Both Budd and Decker Slaney finished out of the medals Budd initially received much of the ...

Article

Shortly before the Civil War a new pastime began to sweep the gentlemen’s clubs and social societies, one that would eventually evolve into the “national pastime”—baseball. The game quickly gained momentum throughout America, with amateur, leisure clubs springing up across the eastern portion of the country, followed by professionalized teams in the 1870s.

Almost from the beginning the nascent pastime caught fire within African American communities just as it did in white society. However, for most of baseball’s first century of existence, a largely informal but nevertheless real “color line” divided the players, owners, journalists, and fans with the same type of racial segregation that plagued almost every other aspect of American society.

But despite this discrimination the passion for and subsequent quality of baseball was just as vibrant in African American culture as it was elsewhere and Chicago developed into what was arguably the strongest and most vital locus ...

Article

Kathryn Mathers

Zimbabwean swimmer and Olympic gold medal winner, was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 16 September 1983. Kirsty attended the Harare Dominican Convent High School. Her parents, Rob and Lyn Coventry, own the Harare-based household chemical company, Omnichem. In 1989 six-year-old Kirsty, who had been taught to swim by her mother, was breaking records at the Highlands Swimming Club. At ten she was a dominant swimmer for Pirates Swimming Club under the coaching of Charles Mathieson. Kirsty was recruited by Kim Bracken for the Auburn University swimming team in Alabama. By December 2010 Kirsty Coventry had won seven Olympic medals, the most individual medals for an African athlete.

Kirsty was nominated as Zimbabwe’s National Sports’ person of the year in 1999 when she represented her country at the All-Africa Games in Johannesburg. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney she was the first Zimbabwean to reach a semifinal in any ...

Article

was born William D. Davenport in Troy, Alabama. He was the oldest in a family of seven children. In 1952 his family moved to Warren, Ohio. One of the few African American students at Howland High School in Warren, Davenport recalled being “a loner with a sour attitude” until achieving success in athletics (Encyclopedia of Alabama). He competed in all sports, especially loved baseball, but found his niche in track and field. Initially a 100-yard-dash man, Davenport turned his attention to the 120-yard high hurdles during his junior year, an event in which he won the Howland Local School District title in 1960. As a senior he established a high school record of 14.2 seconds in the 120-yard high hurdles.

After graduating high school in 1961, Davenport enlisted in the United Sates Army. Stationed in Mainz, West Germany from 1961 to 1963 he became a ...

Article

Martha Saavedra

Ethiopian long-distance runner, and the first sub-Saharan African woman to win an Olympic gold medal, was born on 21 March 1972 in Bekoji 80 miles 130 kilometers south of Addis Ababa Ethiopia Like many in their community her father Tulu and her mother Derartu Kenene were farmers who raised cows sheep and horses Despite a population of only 30 thousand Bekoji in the Arsi zone in the central Ethiopia highlands at an altitude of 9 800 feet 3 000 meters is also the birthplace of many successful distance runners from Ethiopia These include Kenenisa Bekele and Derartu s younger cousin Tirunesh Dibaba 2008 Olympic 5 000 10 000 meter and multiple World Cross Country women s champion Like the majority of the country s elite runners as well as athletes in other sports in Ethiopia Derartu is from the Oromo ethnic group A study of Ethiopian national senior and ...

Article

Azeddine Chergui

Moroccan track and field athlete, was born in Berkane, Morocco, on 14 September 1974. In a land where soccer is the national sport, El Guerrouj first tried his athletic skills as a goalkeeper but, because of his mother’s objection to the dirty laundry he brought home from practice, he abandoned soccer for the next best thing, track and field athletics. He was only ten when, like millions of his countrymen, he watched Said Aouita and Nawal Almoutawakil win the first gold medals in Morocco’s history at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Motivated by the achievements of these two national icons, he took up cross-country running to become the greatest middle-distance runner of all time and “King of the Mile.” In 1991 he left school and turned professional by joining the National Athletics Institute in the capital city of Rabat At the age of eighteen he attained his ...

Article

Tracey M. Ober

Born in Casa Verde, a suburb of São Paulo, Adhemar Ferreira da Silva came from a humble background, the only child of a railroad worker and a cook. A friend introduced him to the world of sports when he was almost nineteen years old and by the following year he already held the Brazilian and South American record in the triple jump. At twenty-one, he competed in his first Olympic Games, finishing eighth place in London in 1948. He matched the world record—then 16 meters—in 1950 and set a new record of 16.01m in 1951. A year later at the Helsinki Games, Ferreira da Silva broke his own world record twice on the same day, jumping 16.12m and 16.22m, and winning the gold medal. Ferreira da Silva set a new world record of 16.56m in 1955 and earned a second gold medal at the Melbourne Games in 1956 ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Frankie Fredericks was a talented athlete as a youth, but he never expected to be in the Olympic Games. Until 1990 his country, Namibia, was a colony of South Africa, which had been banned from Olympic competition because of its policy of Apartheid. Yet Fredericks, who has become one of the world’s premiere sprinters, has brought four Olympic medals home to Namibia.

An only child, Fredericks was raised by his mother in Katutura township, just outside the Namibian capital, Windhoek His mother worked several jobs to send Fredericks to private schools where he excelled in both soccer and academics In high school he started running track specializing in sprinting He won both the 100 and 200 meter races in the South African school championships his senior year After graduating Fredericks passed up several college scholarship offers to accept a management training position with the Rossing Uranium ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Haile Gebrselassie was born in Arssi, Ethiopia. As a child, he ran barefoot to and from school each day—a round trip of 25 km (15 mi). This was good training for his future career as one of the world’s best runners. Like his brother before him, Gebrselassie began running competitively as a teenager. In 1992 he won both the 5000-m and 10,000-m races at the World Junior Championships. The next year, competing against adults for the first time, he won the 10,000-m and finished second in the 5000-m in the World Championships. In 1996 Gebrselassie not only won the 5000-m event in the World Indoor Championships, he also set an indoor world record, the first Ethiopian to do so. He followed that feat by winning a gold medal in the 10,000-m at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, setting a new Olympic record.

Treated to a victory parade ...

Article

Antje Daub

athlete, scholar, soldier, and judge, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, one of nine children of Walter Holmes Gourdin, a meat cutter and part Seminole Indian, and Felicia Nee, an African American woman who was a housekeeper. Little is known about his early school career, other than that he was valedictorian of his high school class in 1916. Although poor, Gourdin's parents recognized their son's talents and educational potential and, following his high school graduation, moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to further his career. There, Gourdin attended Cambridge High and Latin, which helped prepare him for the high academic demands of an Ivy League education.

By the time he enrolled in his freshman year at Harvard in 1917 Gourdin appears to have been a conscientious and responsible student To pay tuition he supported himself by working as a postal clerk He also became a ...

Article

Edward Morrow

Edward Orval Gourdin was born on August 10, 1897, in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Walter Holmes and Felicia Garvin Gourdin. As a child, Gourdin demonstrated such athletic and scholarly excellence that his family sacrificed and took him to Massachusetts to realize his potential. He prepared at Stanton and Cambridge Latin high schools for Harvard College and graduated in 1921 with a B.A. degree; he completed Harvard Law School in 1924 with an LL.B. degree. On May 10, 1923, he married Amalia Ponce of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who became the mother of their four children: Elizabeth, Ann Robinson, Amalia Lindal, and Edward O., Jr.

Gourdin gained fame as an athlete during his college and university career, passed the bar, practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts, and joined the National Guard in 1925. During World War II he served as lieutenant colonel and later ...

Article

Haggai Erlich

Ethiopian long-distance track and road runner, was born on 18 April 1973 in Arsi Province in southern Ethiopia to a family of ten children. His village of Asella had no electricity and no running water. At the age of five, he began studying in a school some six miles (ten kilometers) from his home, a distance he ran twice a day. His later distinctive, majestically straight running posture, with his left arm somewhat passive and slightly bent, was shaped by years of running while holding his schoolbooks. His father, he testified, was a natural athlete; and the altitude of Arsi Province, some 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) above sea level, proved an ideal breeding ground for great runners, like Kenenisa Bekele, who would in time break many of Gebrselassie’s records, and Tirunesh Dibaba, women’s world and Olympic champion.

Gebrselassie began competing on the national level at the age of fifteen He ...

Article

James Jankowski

Egyptian politician, athlete, and explorer, was born in Bulaq on 31 October 1889. He was the son of Shaykh Muhammad Hasanayn of al-Azhar and the grandson of Admiral Ahmad Pasha Mazhar Hasanayn. Hasanayn received his early education in Cairo, then at Balliol College, Oxford. A skilled fencer, in 1920 he captained the Egyptian team at the Olympic Games in Brussels. In the early 1920s, he was commissioned by King Fuʾad to explore Egypt’s Western Desert. The Lost Oases (1925) is his own account of his expedition of 1923 on which he traveled from Egypt’s Mediterranean coast through the Libyan Desert, discovering the “lost” oases of Arkenu and Ouenat, and for which he received the Founder’s Medal of Britain’s Royal Geographical Society. In the hope of establishing a long-distance flight record, in 1929 he learned to fly; plagued by malfunctioning aircraft, he eventually abandoned the effort.

Somewhat out ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born James Ray Hines in Dumas, Arkansas, the ninth of twelve children of Charlie Hines and Minnie West Hines. In 1952 the Hines family moved to Oakland, California, where his father worked in construction and his mother in a cannery. At Oakland’s Lowell Junior High School, Hines played center field on the baseball team; his speed at that position impressed Jim Coleman, the McClymonds High School track and field coach, who asked him to join the track team. Once at McClymonds, Hines began specializing in the 100- and 220-yard dashes. Undefeated throughout his high school career at both distances, he clocked 9.7 seconds in the 100 yards as a sophomore, and improved to 9.4 as a senior, to earn a share of the national high school record. Graduating high school in 1964, Hines ranked as the nation’s top high school sprinter.

Hines earned an athletic scholarship to run ...