Alice Coachman may not be a name you know, but exactly 70 years ago today she became the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
It was the 1948 Olympics in London. A 25-year-old Coachman was competing in the high jump finals. According to Biography.com, “She leapt to a record-breaking height of 5 feet, 6 and 1/8 inches in the high jump finals.” Coachman was recovering from a back injury but still managed to soar. This jump from Coachman made her the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
The Georgia native was awarded the medal by King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II. Coachman said about the win, “I didn’t know I’d won. I was on my way to receive the medal and I saw my name on the board. And, of course, I glanced over into the stands where my coach was, and she was clapping her hands.”
After making history at the Olympics, she retired from athletic competitions and completed her degree at Albany State Univesity in Albany, Georgia. However, Coachman made history again. In 1952, she became a spokesperson for the Coca-Cola Company, making her the first African American to earn an endorsement deal. By 1979, she was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, she was honored as one of the 100 greatest Olympians.
Coachman passed away on on July 14, 2014 at the age of 90 in Georgia.