This year’s Winter Olympics is about to be iconic for black women athletes. Several athletes have made some pretty important firsts in winter sports. But their prospective glory has been made possible by two women who broke ground in the Olympics in the early 1900s. Their names are Louise Stokes and Tidye Pickett.
In the early years of the Olympic Games, Black people weren’t allowed to represent the United States at all — they weren’t even allowed to participate in events like track and field until 1928. They were limited to “less strenuous” sports like golf and tennis.
But in 1932, Stokes and Pickett qualified for the Olympics at only 17 and 18 years old. But they weren’t actually allowed to run the race. Four years later, the games were held in Berlin and the two qualified once more. Pickett actually got to run an event but was unfortunately injured during hurtles — putting the medals out of reach. It wasn’t until 12 years that Alice Coachman came along and seized the gold medal. This should have been a huge deal but wasn’t — some papers even labeled it as a “disappointment.” As far as most people know, Wilma Rudolph was the first Black woman to medal in 1960. Fortunately, since then, so many Black women throughout the 20th and 21th centuries have medaled and have been celebrated for their achievements. But it’s important to remember the individuals who paved the way for their success.