Alice Coachman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Alice Coachman
Alice Coachman.jpg
Personal information
Born November 9, 1923
Died July 14, 2014
Sport Athletics

Alice Marie Coachman (November 9, 1923 – July 14, 2014) was an American athlete. She specialized in high jump and was the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal.[1] In 2002 she was designated a Women's History Month Honoree by the National Women's History Project.[2]


Coachman first garnered attention in 1939 when she broke the AAU high school and college high jump records, while jumping barefoot. Her unusual jumping style was a combination of straight jumping and western roll techniques.[3]

Coachman deserves recognition for opening the door for future African-American track stars such as Evelyn Ashford, Florence Griffith Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. In fact, in the years since her display of Olympic prowess, black women have made up a majority of the US women's Olympic track and field team. "I think I opened the gate for all of them," she reflected. "Whether they think that or not, they should be grateful to someone in the black race who was able to do these things."[4]

Born in Albany, Georgia, Coachman dominated the AAU outdoor high jump championship from 1939 through 1948, winning ten national championships in a row.However, she was unable to compete in the Olympic Games as they were cancelled in 1940 and 1944 because of World War II. In the opinion of sportswriter Eric Williams, "Had she competed in those canceled Olympics, we would probably be talking about her as the No. 1 female athlete of all time."[5]

In the high jump finals of the 1948 Summer Olympics, Coachman leaped 1.68 m (5 ft 6⅛ in) on her first try. Her nearest rival, Great Britain's Dorothy Tyler, matched Coachman's jump, but only on her second try. Coachman was the only American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics in 1948. Her medal was presented by King George VI.[6]

Upon her return to the United States after the Olympics, Coachman had become a celebrity. Soon after meeting President Harry Truman and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, she was honored with parades from Atlanta to Albany. Also notable is the fact that she became the first African-American woman to endorse an international product when the Coca-Cola Company featured her prominently on billboards along the nation's highways. And in her hometown, Alice Avenue and Coachman Elementary School were named in her honor. [7]

Coachman also excelled in the indoor and outdoor 50 m dash and the outdoor 100 m dash. Representing Tuskegee University, Coachman also ran on the national champion 4 x 100-meter relay team in 1941 and 1942. Coachman was an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, inducted in 1998 during the sorority's international conference. She was inducted to the USA Track and Field Hall of fame in 1975 and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004.[8] She died in Albany, Georgia on July 14, 2014 of cardiac arrest after respiratory problems. She also had a stroke a few months prior for which she received treatment from a nursing home.[9]

After her career in track and field was over, Coachman dedicated the rest of her life to education and to the Job Corps. Her Alice Coachman Foundation continues to help former Olympic athletes who are in need of assistance. [10]


  1. ^ "Alice Coachman Biography". Archived from the original on 2010-09-27. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  2. ^ "Honorees: 2010 National Women’s History Month". Women's History Month. National Women's History Project. 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  3. ^ "Alice Coachman". Brittanica Academic. Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  4. ^ "Alice Coachman - obituary; Alice Coachman was an American athlete who became the first black woman to win Olympic gold". Telegraph Online. Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  5. ^ Williams, Eric (2006-04-06). "The Greatest Black Female Athletes Of All-Time". BlackAthlete. Retrieved 2014-07-24. 
  6. ^ Greenblatt, Alan (2014-07-19). "Why An African-American Sports Pioneer Remains Obscure". Code Switch. NPR. Retrieved 2014-07-24. 
  7. ^ "Alice Coachman". Notable Sports Figures, 2004. Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  8. ^ "BBC News - US black female gold Olympian Alice Coachman Davis dies". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  9. ^ Goldstein, Richard (July 14, 2014). "Alice Coachman, 90, Dies; First Black Woman to Win Olympic Gold -". The New York Times (New York: NYTC). ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 15, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Sports of The Times; Good Things Happening for One Who Decided to Wait". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-02-24. 

Further reading[edit]

  • "Alice Coachman, 1st Black Woman Gold Medalist, To Be Honored." Jet (July 29, 1996): 53.
  • Cummings, D. L. "An Inspirational Jump Into History." Daily News (February 9, 1997): 75.
  • Danzig, Allison. "83,000 At Olympics." New York Times (August 8, 1948): S1.
  • Deramus, Betty. "Living Legends." Essence (February, 1999): 93.
  • "Georgia's Top 100 Athletes of the 1900s." Atlanta Journal and Constitution (December 26, 1999): 4G.
  • "Miss Coachman Honored: Tuskegee Woman Gains 3 Places on All-America Track Team." New York Times (January 11, 1946): 24.
  • Rhoden, William C. "Sports of the Times; Good Things Happening for the One Who Decided to Wait." New York Times (April 27, 1995): B14.
  • Rosen, Karen. "Olympic Weekly; 343 Days; Georgia's Olympic Legacy." Atlanta Journal and Constitution (August 11, 1995): 6D.
  • Weiner, Jay. "A Place in History, Not Just a Footnote." Star Tribune (July 29, 1996): 4S.

External links[edit]