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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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Richard Sobel

track-and-field athlete, motivational speaker, and activist for youth, was born Robert Alfred Beamon in Jamaica, New York, to Naomi Brown Beamon and a father he never met. After his mother died from tuberculosis before Beamon's first birthday, his stepfather, James, assumed parental responsibility for Robert and his older, disabled brother Andrew. Robert's grandmother, Bessie Beamon, ultimately took over their care as a result of James's inadequate parenting skills. Rarely supervised, Beamon ran away from home when he was fourteen and joined a gang. When he struck a teacher who had attempted to break up one of Beamon's fights, he was expelled and charged with assault and battery.

Beamon's life might have become a tragedy if it weren't for a judge who was “thoughtful, compassionate, and obviously interested in helping kids” (Second Chances 3 The judge took a chance and allowed Beamon to attend an alternative school in ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

track and field athlete and professional football and baseball player was born Edward Solomon Butler on 3 March 1895, in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Sol Butler was the youngest of three known children of Ben and Mary Butler. His father, born a slave in Georgia in 1842, took the last name of Butler after a Union officer with whom he served in the Civil War. His mother, originally from Georgia, was born a freewoman in 1867. The Butlers, as did many African Americans in the late nineteenth century, moved to the nation's Midwest to escape the rise of racial discrimination and violence in the South following the end of Reconstruction in 1877. After a brief period in the Oklahoma territory, the Butlers moved to Wichita, Kansas in 1904, before finally settling in Hutchinson, Kansas in 1909.

In Hutchinson Butler began to participate in football and track ...

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Kimberly Cheek

track-and-field athlete, was born John Wesley Carlos in Harlem, New York, the youngest of five children of Earl Vanderbilt Carlos, a cobbler, and Vioris Carlos, a nurse's aide. Initially Carlos desired to become an Olympic swimmer, but few African Americans had access to suitable training facilities for those events. He was encouraged by local police officers to become involved in track and field and trained at the New York Pioneer Club. He competed for the first time when he represented the Machine Trade and Metal High School at the Penn Relays. During his senior year Carlos married Karen Benjamin Groce on 29 February 1965 and with her had two children. Following high school he was awarded a full track-and-field scholarship to East Texas State University at Commerce.

In 1967 during his first year at East Texas State Carlos won the university s first Lone Star Conference title and ...

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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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Hilary Mac Austin

Today, when black women dominate track-and-field events, it is difficult to remember that the first Olympic medal won by an African American woman was not awarded until after World War II. The first gold medal was won at the same Olympics; that medal went to Alice Coachman, a legendary high jumper from Tuskegee Institute.

Coachman was born (some sources say 1921 or 1922) near Albany, Georgia. She was one of ten children of Fred and Evelyn Coachman, who worked most days picking cotton. Sometimes her father traveled to Ohio to work as a plasterer, and sometimes her mother cleaned the houses of white families, but usually the entire family worked in the fields at nearby plantations.

Coachman started her jumping career on the red clay roads of Georgia The children would tie rags together and appoint one child to hold each end of the homemade rope Then they ...

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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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SaFiya D. Hoskins

athlete, Olympic medalist, was born Aeriwentha Mae Faggs in Mays Landing, New Jersey, the second of five children and the only daughter of William and Hepsi Faggs. Her father was a factory worker; her mother was employed in a musical instrument plant making needles, she also worked as a domestic. Faggs was in elementary school when began running track and continued to run as a student at Bayside High School in Bayside, Long Island. In 1947, at age fifteen, she became a member of the Police Athletic League (PAL) girl's track team from the 11th Precinct in Bayside, Long Island. The same year, Faggs joined the newly formed Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in Bayside, created for exceptional runners from all over the city by Sergeant John Brennan who became her coach and mentor During her tenure with AAU her strength and speed grew and she ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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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Jon L. Brudvig

athlete, Olympian, and media personality, was born Rafer Lewis Johnson in Hillsboro, Texas, the son of Lewis Johnson, a laborer, and Alma Gibson, a domestic. Rafer had one brother, Jim, who later played in the National Football League, and two sisters, Emma and Dolores. When jobs became scarce during the Great Depression the family relocated to Oklahoma, only to return to Dallas a short time later where Lewis Johnson worked as a handyman for a company that manufactured drilling implements and Alma Johnson secured a position as a domestic for the proprietor's family. Texas acquainted Rafer Johnson with institutionalized segregation and racism. Like countless others, the Johnson family moved to California during World War II. Besides the promise of higher-paying jobs, the relocation also carried with it the hope of leaving Jim Crow permanently behind them. In 1945 when defense contractors began downsizing ...

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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 ...

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Chris Elzey

track athlete, was born Vincent Edward Matthews in Queens Village, New York. His parents' names are not known, but his father was a fabric cutter in the clothing trade. Matthews spent much of his early childhood in some of New York's rougher neighborhoods. In 1949 his family moved from a cramped flat in Brooklyn to the Marcy Housing Projects, a collection of ramshackle apartment blocks near the Bedford-Stuyvesant section. After Matthews's mother had the astounding luck of winning a substantial sum of money playing the Irish Sweepstakes, his parents purchased a house in the more stable neighborhood of South Ozone Park, Queens. Matthews attended Andrew Jackson High School in a nearby neighborhood of Queens.

A bright inquisitive youngster Matthews began running competitive track at Andrew Jackson But he devoted so much time to the sport that his schoolwork suffered and he was dismissed twice from Jackson s track team ...

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Jamal Ratchford

track and field athlete, was born Edith McGuire in Rockdale, Georgia, one of four children of Alberta, a domestic worker, and Clifford McGuire, a railroad worker. As a child, McGuire first participated in track and field at her elementary school during its May Day celebration. She next attended Samuel Howard Archer High School and was coached by Georgia Sports Hall-of-Fame member Marian Morgan and Olympian Mildred McDaniel Gold. As a high school student-athlete McGuire excelled in the classroom and was selected to the honor roll. She also participated in cheerleading, basketball, and track and field. At the age of 15, McGuire defeated top-ranked local sprinter Fronnie Tucker, and Morgan recommended she attend Coach Ed Temple's summer camp at Texas Southern University. In the summer of 1960 between her junior and senior years of high school McGuire attended Coach Temple s track and field ...