Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

March 29, 1930

On March 29, 1930, the Norfolk Journal and Guide noted that twenty-two young women tried out for the Tuskegee Institute track team. “The troupe will be groomed for the relays,” the paper reported. The Tuskegee relays started in 1927 and became an important springtime event at the school, especially in the 1930s and 1940s. The Journal and Guide described the women’s relay team as “an exceedingly fast four [who] who will be out to repeat the brilliant performance of last year, when these fleet-footed lassies won the National Girls’ Quarter Mile Relay for Tuskegee in the amazing time of 57 seconds.” The paper went on to note specific replacements to the lineup, including “Ruby Gibbs [who] will fill the place left vacant by graduation of the little phantom Anna Lois Russ.” This “little phantom” became a social worker and was the mother of Amiri Baraka.

Tuskegee’s most famous women’s track star was Alice Coachman. Coachman won amateur national championships as a high jumper and sprinter in the 1940s, and in 1948 she won the gold medal in the high jump at the Olympic games in London. She was the first African-American woman to win a gold medal.

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