Library of Congress
credit: Library of Congress

Since February is Black History Month I thought that I’d pay tribute to one of the greatest black woman athletes in the history of track and field. Wilma Rudolph was born June 23, 1940 in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee. As a young child Mrs. Rudolph wore a brace on her leg. While in high school she played basketball, and at the age of 16 she qualified for the 1956 Olympic team. She was the youngest member of the team and won a bronze medal. That’s a big feat for a young girl who at one time wore a brace. After high school she went to Tennessee State University. She qualified for the 1960 Olympic team and won the 100 and 200 meters as well as the 400 relay. She was also the first woman to win three gold medals in track and field. She was named the Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year twice and was inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame.

Mrs. Rudolph accomplished all these feats in the 1950s and 60s during a period when blacks were fighting for equality and civil rights. She faced racism from fellow Olympic teammates and coaches, but continued to strive to be one of the best track and field athletes in the world. Mrs. Rudolph died on November 12, 1994 from brain cancer, but her legacy lives on.