First African American Woman Gold Medalist, Alice Coachman Passes Away


Alice Coachman Davis

The first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, Alice Coachman Davis, has died in the US at the age of 90.

Born in Albany, Georgia, on November 9, 1923, Alice Coachman made history at the 1948 Olympics in London when jumped to a record-breaking height of 5 feet, 6 and 1/8 inches in the high jump finals to become the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, Coachman was honored with a 175-mile motorcade in Georgia when she returned from London. However, the black and white audiences were segregated at her official ceremony in Albany.

Coachman’s athletic achievements occurred before the civil rights era, which meant she was not allowed in public sports facilities because of her race. In her early years, Coachman caught the attention of the athletic department at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. Tuskegee then offered the 16-year-old Coachman a scholarship in 1939. There she blossomed as a track and field athlete. Alice Coachman received her degree from Tuskegee Institute in 1946 and enrolled in Albany State University.

Davis also made history as the first black woman to get an endorsement deal when she signed with Coca-Cola in 1952. She was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975 and the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004. Her legacy was recognized at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta when she was honored as one of the 100 greatest Olympians in history.


Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White is Director of Digital Strategy for the Tom Joyner Foundation, a writer and editor.