There was a time that if little brown girls tried out for sports the odds were against them making the team. And if she made the team, no one was looking for her to make a big name for herself in the sport. However, those times have changed dramatically and now they are becoming some of the greatest athletes of all times.
Now, when a little brown girl tries out for a sports team the question that goes through everyone’s mind is “will she be the next greatest player of the sport?” Here are 10 of the greatest African-American women who have either paved the way or are still paving the way for Black women athletes.
1. Serena Williams
Serena Williams is one of the most loved athletes of this time. Her work and talent does not go unnoticed on the court. In 2014 she was named America’s Greatest Athlete by The New Yorker and the media often refers to her as the “Queen of the Court.” She also holds the title of being a “fly girl” and most “uniquely dressed” woman to ever hold a tennis racket during a game. She was raised in Compton, CA, and is the winner of 6 U.S. Opens and 5 Wimbledon. She has also been ranked in the World as No. 1 in singles on six separate occasions.
2. Althea Gibson
Althea Gibson paved the way for Serena. She was the first black athlete to break the color line in international tennis. She won the French Open in 1956, which was followed by the Wimbledon, and the U.S Open in 1957. She was named the Female of the Year by Associated Press in both 1957 and 1958. She also played golf professionally.
3. Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Jacqueline “Jackie” Joyner-Kersee is an American retired track and field athlete, ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in the women’s heptathlon as well as in the women’s long jump. She won three gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals in those two events at four different Olympic Games.
4. Laila Ali
Most people know Laila Ali as being the daughter of Muhammad Ali. He passed down his legacy of the boxing sport to his daughter. With an undefeated record of 24 of 24 matches including 21 knockouts Laila Ali turned the insult of “fight like a girl” into a high honor. Ali has since retired after her 24th win and continues to make TV appearances. Her plan include being committed to giving back to her community.
5. Alice Coachman
Alice Coachman was the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Coachman became a well-known phenomenon with her AAU high school and college records. Coachman specialized in the high jump. She definitely leaped over all the racism that was thrown her way. She won a championship award every year between 1939 and 1948. She was the first Black woman to endorse an international product, Coca-Cola.
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6. Wilma Rudolph
By the early 1960s Wilma Rudolph was considered the fastest woman on earth. She was born as a premature baby who later contracted polio as a child. She was forced to wear a leg brace for many years; she definitely beat those odds of overcoming her condition. Rudolph was the first Black woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic game. In 2004, the United States Postal Service honored her with a “Distinguished American stamp.”
7. Sheryl Swoopes
Sheryl Swoopes is one of the greatest basketball players to grace the court. Swoopes was often called the “female Michael Jordan” on the court. She was the first Black player to sign to the WNBA, she won three Olympic gold medals, and she is a 3 times WNBA MVP. She remains on top every WNBA player list ever made. Swoopes is currently the head coach of the women’s basketball team at Loyola University Chicago.
8. Gabby Douglas
Gabrielle Christina Victoria “Gabby” Douglas is an American artistic gymnast. As a member of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics, she won gold medals in both the individual all-around and team competitions. Douglas is the first African-American woman in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion, and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics.
9. Florence Griffith Joyner
Florence-Griffith Joyner was the “fly girl” speeding right past other runners on the track. She was most known for wearing long, painted fingernails and bright red lipstick. Even today no one has been able to break the record that was set by “Flo Jo”. In 1985, she won the 100m at the IAAF Grand Prix Final with the time of 11.00 seconds. Her records set back in 1988 in the 100m and 200m have yet to be broken. Unfortunately, Flo Jo passed away in 1998 from complications of an epileptic seizure.
10. Fredia Gibbs
Fredia “The Cheetah” Gibbs nicknamed “The Most Dangerous Woman in the World”, is a sports icon and Muay Thai kickboxing legend. Gibbs is a 3 Time World Champion in Kickboxing and the first African-American female to hold the world kickboxing championship for the International Sport Karate Association. She is known for having a very balanced attack as a kick-boxer that includes a ferocious overhand right, a mighty left, and lighting quick feet.
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