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Key African American Women in Sports

Black Women Excelling in the Sports World


Many sports have been closed to women and African Americans through discrimination in leagues, contests and other events. But some women have pioneered past the barriers, and others who followed have excelled. Here are some noteworthy African American women from the sports world.

1. Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson
World Telegram & Sun photo by Fred Palumbo, Courtesy Library of Congress

From a poor and troubled childhood, Althea Gibson discovered tennis and her talent playing the sport. It was not until the year she was 23 that major tennis competitions were opened to black players like Gibson.

Biography: Althea Gibson

More: Althea Gibson Quotes | Althea Gibson Picture Gallery

2. Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Javelin Throw, Olympics, Seoul, 1988
Getty Images / Tony Duffy

Jackie Joyner-Kersee participated in four Olympics, from 1984 to 1996, taking home three gold medals, one silver and two bronze.

Biography and records: Jackie Joyner-Kersee

More: Jackie Joyner-Kersee Quotes | Jackie Joyner-Kersee Pictures

3. Lynette Woodard

Lynette Woodard 1990 Goodwill Games
Getty Images / Tony Duffy

A basketball star who was the first woman player on the Harlem Globetrotters, Lynette Woodard also participated in the 1984 gold medal team in women's basketball at the 1984 Olympics.

Biography and records: Lynette Woodard

More: Lynette Woodard Image Gallery

4. Wyomia Tyus

Wyomia Tyus at 1968 Olympics
Getty Images / Agence France Presse

Wyomia Tyus won consecutive Olympic gold medals for the 100-meter dash. Caught up in the black power controversy at the 1968 Olympics, she chose to compete rather than boycott and also chose not to give the black power salute as some other athletes did upon winning medals.

Biography: Wyomia Tyus

Wyomia Tyus Quotes

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