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Hasaan A. Kirkland

football player and painter, was born Ernest Eugene Barnes Jr. in Durham, North Carolina, the son of Ernest Barnes Sr., a tobacco worker, and Fannie Mae Geer, who worked for a local legal official. On occasion Barnes talked with Mr. Fuller, his mother's employer, and from him learned about culture, art, and classical music.

Before the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 it was uncommon for African Americans in North Carolina to have access to museums or other sources of information about ancient or world cultures Segregation and racial inequalities in schools and other public institutions deprived most back children of avenues for artistic pursuits Despite such constraints Barnes s mother exposed her son to as much culture and art as she could he studied dance and horn and percussion instruments as well as the visual arts By the time ...

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Leslie Heywood

track-and-field athlete, was the fifth of ten children born to Fred “Doc” and Evelyn Coachman in Albany, Georgia. She was primarily raised by her great-grandmother and maternal grandmother and endured the difficulties of impoverishment. As a child, she participated in music and dance and was active in sports. Like many other African American women, she competed in basketball and track in junior high, where she came to the attention of Coach Henry E. Lash at Madison High School.

It was at this point that Coachman made a leap and became part of what was fast becoming a track-and-field dynasty when she transferred to the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, where she was trained by the renowned coach Cleveland Abbott. Founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881 as a teacher s college Tuskegee was one of the first black institutions to embrace women s athletics and Abbott s team ...

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Paul T. Murray

long-distance runner and physical therapist, was born Theodore Corbitt near Dunbarton, South Carolina, to John Henry Corbitt, a farmer and railroad worker, and Alma Bing Corbitt, a seamstress and union official. Though small in stature, the young Corbitt helped on the family farm, plowing and picking crops, forging a work ethic that would become the trademark of his athletic career. While white children rode the bus, Corbitt walked the dusty roads back and forth to school. At age nine his family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he won his first races in school competitions. He graduated from Cincinnati's Woodward High School in 1938 and enrolled in University of Cincinnati that fall. There he joined the track and cross-country teams, trying every running event from 100 yards to two miles. He graduated in 1942 with a degree in Education Corbitt was drafted into the U S Army and ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

track and field athlete, was born in Lexington, Virginia, the son of David Henry Drew and May E. Mackey. At age twenty-one, after working for several years in a railroad depot, he entered high school in Springfield, Massachusetts. By the time Drew entered high school he ranked high among the nation's best sprinters. In 1910 and 1911 he won both the 100- and 220-yard dashes at the junior Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) track and field championships. Drew's best times as a junior were 10.0 seconds for 100 yards and 21.8 seconds for 220 yards.

In 1912 Drew competed in the senior AAU track and field championships and captured the one-hundred-yard dash in ten seconds flat. In the 1912 U S Olympic trials the Springfield High School sophomore defeated the nation s top collegiate sprinter Ralph Craig of the University of Michigan in the one hundred meters After ...

Article

Olympic high jump champion, teacher, and track coach, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one of six children of Monroe Dumas and Nancy Dumas. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1941, when Dumas was four years old. Beginning high jumping with “the best performance … in his physical education class” in eighth grade (Hornbuckle, 83), Dumas specialized in the event. He shared second place in the city championship in his freshman year at Centennial High School and placed fourth in the state meet. In 1955 at eighteen years of age, he jumped six feet ten and one-quarter inches (2.089m).

In 1955, during his senior year in high school, Dumas set a national interscholastic record of six feet nine and three-eighths inches (2.07m). Shortly after graduating, he shared the national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championship with the defending high school champion, Ernie Shelton ...

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Richard Sobel

first African American Ivy League head coach, 1984 U.S. Olympic men's track-and-field team head coach, and president of USA Track & Field from 1992 to 1996, was born Lawrence Thomas Ellis in Englewood, New Jersey. With two older sisters, Virginia Robinson and Theresa Brisbane, Ellis grew up in the Bronx in New York City, on a street known for its gangs. His parents, Henry Ellis, a tailor, and Anna Wright Hart, a Macy's saleswoman and a child's nurse, separated during his youth and Ellis worked part-time jobs in order to help make ends meet. Ellis's mother and the late Rev. Edler Hawkins, a Presbyterian minister, were positive influences in his younger years. “Basically, I was a good kid,” he explained. “I joined the Boy Scouts. I played ball in the street, touch football (Alfano, New York Times, Apr. 1984 section 5 1 For ...

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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

Michael C. Miller

football player and Olympic sprinter, was born Robert Lee Hayes in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of George Sanders, who operated a shoeshine parlor, and Mary Hayes, a domestic. When he was growing up Bob resented having to work for his father, particularly after starting high school, because his father would not allow him to participate in sports. Coaches at his son's high school convinced George Sanders to let Bob compete, and he joined the football team in May 1958. A gifted athlete, Bob was on the field for every play, playing both offense and defense, returning kicks, and serving as kicker and punter. He also played basketball and baseball and ran track, and by his senior year he was offered numerous scholarships and a professional baseball contract. Like many black athletes in Florida, he longed to play for legendary coach Jack Gaither at Florida A&M.

Hayes ...

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John A. Lucas

the first African American to win an individual Olympic Games gold medal, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of William A. Hubbard. Olympic historians know nothing of his father's occupation nor his mother's full name at the time of her marriage. After excelling in both academics and athletics at Walnut Hills High School between 1918 and 1921, Hubbard entered the University of Michigan. As a freshman he tied the school record in the 50-yard dash, set a school record of 24 feet 63⁄4 inches in the long jump, and won two U.S. National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Championships in the long jump (24 feet 51⁄2 inches) and triple jump (48 feet 11⁄2 inches). He won All-American honors in 1922, and until his graduation in 1925, his exploits reserved for him recognition as the greatest combination sprinter-jumper of the 1920s.

Hubbard was a compact 150 ...

Article

Gregory Travis Bond

athlete and educator, was born in Glencairn, Virginia, to Lindsay Jackson, a plumber, and Mary Jane (Smith) Jackson, a domestic worker. The family moved to nearby Alexandria, and while in high school Jackson worked as a barber's apprentice. In 1883 he entered the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University) in Petersburg, a segregated public college. While at school he became good friends with fellow Virginian William Henry Lewis. Jackson and Lewis were heavily involved in campus politics, and both left the school in 1887 after Democratic state legislators forced the school's president, the civil rights activist John Mercer Langston, to resign.

The following year, probably with Langston's help, Lewis and Jackson, who was known to his contemporaries simply as “Sherman Jackson,” entered Amherst College in central Massachusetts. George Washington Forbes another African American entered Amherst that year and the ...

Article

Greta Koehler

track-and-field athlete, was born in Virginia. The names of his parents and their occupations are unknown. He grew up in suburban Philadelphia and later moved to Plymouth, Pennsylvania, a coal-mining region during the Great Depression, with his family.

Johnson started his track-and-field career as a junior at Plymouth High School, where he won the 100- and 220-yard dashes in state record times, 9.8 seconds and 21.4 seconds, respectively, in 1932 He won state titles that same year in the 100 and 220 yard dashes and the long jump and qualified himself for the Olympic Trials in California When his parents did not have the resources for him to make the trip the town raised the necessary money Johnson finished fourth in his semifinal In Johnson s senior year the state did not hold a state meet because of the Depression not giving Johnson the chance to compete at ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

track-and-field athlete, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Shadreak Johnson, a plasterer; his mother's name and occupation are not known. Shadreak Johnson had moved from Raleigh, North Carolina, to California in 1893 for better economic and social opportunities. Cornelius first competed in organized track-and-field events at Berendo Junior High School in Los Angeles. He achieved greater athletic success as a student at Los Angeles High School, competing statewide in the sprints and the high jump. His skill as a high jumper earned him a position on the 1932 U.S. Olympic team. While only a junior in high school, Johnson tied the veteran performers Robert van Osdel and George Spitz for first place at a height of 6 feet 65⁄8 inches at the 1932 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Championship, which also served as the Olympic trials.

One of four African Americans representing the United States in ...

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Alva Moore Stevenson

chemist, Olympic medalist, and university professor, was born to Isabelle Lu Valle and James Arthur Garfield Lu Valle in San Antonio, Texas. His father was a newspaper editor in Washington, D.C., and an itinerant preacher; his mother was a secretary. Lu Valle's parents separated when he was still young, and James moved with his mother and sister to Los Angeles in 1923. His father traveled worldwide after the separation and was in Europe for a time; Lu Valle remained estranged from him. At a young age he became a voracious reader. A chemistry set given him as a child changed his original interest in the sciences from engineering to chemistry.

James was an excellent student at McKinley Junior High School His scholastic record there qualified him to attend the competitive Los Angeles Polytechnic High School where his academic interests in science and math were further cultivated ...

Article

William J. Baker

Olympic track champion, was born James Cleveland Owens in Oakville, Alabama, the son of Henry Owens and Mary Emma Fitzgerald, sharecroppers. Around 1920 the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where the nickname “Jesse” originated when a schoolteacher mispronounced his drawled “J. C.” A junior high school teacher of physical education, Charles Riley, trained Owens in manners as well as athletics, preparing him to set several interscholastic track records in high school. In 1932 the eighteen-year-old Owens narrowly missed winning a place on the U.S. Olympic team. Enrolling in 1933 at Ohio State University, Owens soared to national prominence under the tutelage of the coach Larry Snyder. As a sophomore at the Big Ten championships, held on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan, on 25 May 1935 he broke world records in the 220 yard sprint the 220 yard hurdles and the long ...

Article

Bernita D. Lucas

track and field athlete, Olympian, and educator, was born Tidye Anne Pickett in Chicago, Illinois, the younger of two children of Sarah Elizabeth Patton, homemaker and active member of the War Mothers, and Louis Alfred Pickett, who worked for the International Harvester Corporation. Tidye's parents doted on her and her elder brother Charles, raised them to love family, God, and country, and were diligent in protecting and guiding them through the sometimes harsh realities of American racism in the first half of the twentieth century.

Sarah Pickett was involved in local community affairs, and politics eventually led her to several leadership positions as chaplain, historian, and president of a local chapter of the American War Mothers, which was founded in 1917 by mothers whose children were in the armed services, and was incorporated by an Act of Congress of 24 February 1925 The ...

Article

Gregory Travis Bond

athlete, classical scholar, singer, postal worker, and teacher, was born in Hannibal, Missouri, to James Poage, a tanner, and Annie Coleman Poage, a domestic worker. Both parents were Missouri-born, and Annie claimed to have “freedom papers,” issued either before the outbreak of the Civil War or before the 13th Amendment in 1865. Poage’s siblings were Lulu Belle Poage and Nellie Poage, the future mother of attorney Howard Jenkins, Jr. The Poages moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1884, where James was employed as coachman and Anna as cook and domestic servant at the estate of Albert Pettibone, a wealthy lumber mill owner. After the deaths of Lulu Belle in 1887 and James of tuberculosis in 1888 Anna and her two surviving children moved to the Albert Clark Easton and Lucian Frederick Easton estate where Anna was stewardess in charge of domestic ...

Article

John M. Carroll

football player and coach, was born Frederick Douglass Pollard in Chicago, Illinois, the son of John William Pollard, a barber, and Catherine Amanda Hughes, a seamstress. Pollard grew up in the all-white Rogers Park section of Chicago, where his family was grudgingly accepted. He was nicknamed Fritz by the neighborhood's many German-speaking residents.

Following the example set by his father, who had gained a boxing reputation in the Union army, and by his older brothers and sisters, who were superb high school athletes, Pollard became a standout athlete in football, baseball, and track. During his senior year at Lane Technical High School (1911–1912) he was named to all-Cook County teams in track and football. Despite his small stature (5' 8”, 150 pounds), he used his speed and agility to score touchdowns, establishing himself as one of the Chicago area's best high school football players.

After ...

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Jamal Ratchford

track-and-field coach, was born Edward Stanley Temple in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the only child of Christopher Richard Temple and Ruth Naomi. He primarily was raised by his grandparents and as a child frequently attended a Baptist church, where he regularly found trouble. Temple's parents decided to enroll him in music, and he maintained this interest as an adolescent. In 1942 he entered John Harris High School in Harrisburg. As an all-state athlete in football, basketball, and track and field, Temple was eager to compete at the college level. He intended to attend college in Pennsylvania at Cheney State Teachers College, Westchester College, or Pennsylvania State University, but Tom Harris, the track-and-field coach at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College (Tennessee A&I; later Tennessee State University) in Nashville, had other plans. Harris, who also recruited Temple's rival Leroy Davis another track and field star at John Harris High ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

track and field athlete and Olympian, known as The Midnight Express, was born Thomas Edward Tolan in Denver, Colorado, the son of Edward Tolan and Alice (maiden name unknown). When Tolan was a youngster, his parents moved first to Salt Lake City, Utah, and then to Detroit, Michigan, in search of better employment opportunities. In Detroit he received his secondary education at Cass Technical High School. Tolan, who played quarterback on the football team and sprinted on the track team, garnered national attention through his exceptional running ability. The highlight of his high school football career came in 1926, when the five foot seven, 140-pound speedster rushed for six touchdowns against rival Western High School. Although a subsequent knee injury limited his gridiron ability, Tolan in 1927 ran one hundred yards in 9.8 seconds, establishing a Michigan state high school record.

Upon graduating from high school in 1927 ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Foot racing was a common feature of early American slave society. In the narratives of former slaves foot racing is recounted as a popular sport on southern plantations. In one such narrative, former slave Frederick Douglass described the popularity of sports such as Boxing, wrestling, and foot racing in his autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881; revised 1892).

Since most sporting competitions during slavery were segregated, the opportunities for blacks to compete against whites in foot races were limited. However, in the 1830s the Highland Games—organized by Scottish American civic groups—and colored branches of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) featured inter-racial and inter-ethnic competition. Foot racing and fast walking (pedestrianism) were among the events in which African American athletes excelled.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century the performance of African American short and long distance runners were celebrated moments. Francis ...