Black History Month: Those Who Came Before

In honor of Black History Month, NYLiberty.com is taking a look through the pages of sports history to find some of the most memorable female athletes we've come to know over the years, some whom we may have forgotten or those we never even got the chance to know. Check them all out and see which ones got you thinking.


Jackie Joyner- Kersee (1962-)
Track and Field

Considered one of the greatest Olympic athletes ever, Jackie Joyner-Kersee holds the world record in the heptathlon and is the American record holder in the long jump. During her twenty years of competing, she won three gold medals, one silver and two bronze.

Briana Scurry (1971-)
Soccer

Named the National Goalkeeper of the Year in 1993, Scurry went on to become the starting goalkeeper of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team in the 1995, 1996, 1999, 2003, and 2004 World Cups, helping the team win two gold medals. She was also a founder of the WUSA, the world’s first female soccer league.

Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994)
Track and Field

After overcoming a childhood bout of polio and re-learning how to walk and run, Rudolph competed in the 1956 Olympic Games and took home the bronze medal in the women’s 400-meter relay. In the 1960 Olympics, Rudolph won three gold medals before retiring at the age of 22.

 

Florence Griffith Joyner (1959-1998)
Track and Field

Though she’s the sister-in-law of track great Jackie Joyner- Kersee, Florence Griffith Joyner has her own place in the record books. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Joyner became the fastest women in the world, and still holds the record, for the 100- meter relay (10.49 seconds) and the 200- meter relay (21.34 seconds). She is credited with bringing glamour and femininity to the sport, wearing lace attachments, one-legged unitards and six- inch fingernails while competing.

Cheryl Miller (1964-)
Basketball

Miller led USC to NCAA titles in 1983 and 1984 before guiding the U.S. to Olympic gold at the 1984 Games. She held the USC record for points scored (3,018) and rebounds (1,534) before being inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1995. Since then she has coached at her alma mater and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, before becoming a sideline reporter for NBA games on TNT.

Althea Gibson (1927-)
Tennis & Golf

Gibson paved the way for African- Americans in tennis when she broke the color barrier and became the first African-American to play in a major U.S. Lawn Tennis Association match in 1950. She made history again when she won the Wimbledon singles title in 1957 and 1958 to become the top female tennis player in the world. After retiring from tennis in 1958, Gibson took up golf and became the first African-American women to compete in the LPGA.

Flora Hyman (1954-1986)
Volleyball

Regarded as the best female volleyball player in U.S. history, the 6’5” Hyman was a three-time All-American and captain of the 1984 U.S. Olympic volleyball team. She led the team to win the silver medal, the first time the U.S. placed in the sport.

Debi Thomas (1967-)
Figure Skating

Thomas won the World Championships in 1986 and took home a bronze medal at the 1998 Olympic, becoming the first African-American woman in the world to accomplish both feats.

Lynette Woodard (1959-)
Basketball

Woodard scored the most career points in the history of women’s college basketball (3,649) during her four years at the University of Kansas and was the first female player to have her jersey retired by the school. In 1985, she became the first woman to play with the Harlem Globetrotters, where she played for two seasons. In 1997, she became one of the first WNBA players, signing with the Cleveland Rockers.


Compiled By Ashley Rucker

Photos courtesy of Spock.com, AllAboutTennis.com and CNNSI.com.