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Sports History

Sports history articles written for the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper, the oldest and most prominent African-American newspaper in the Western region.  Articles were written for Black History Month, Women's History Month, and throughout the year.

Black History Month: Desegregating college football

“Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!” –George Wallace, Alabama Governor-1963

Southern football was reserved for white players only, but when USC’s Sam Cunningham ran over and right by them, Southern whites knew that they needed black athletes to compete.

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Women's History Month: Alice Coachman Blazed Trails for Blacks and Women

Alice Coachman was the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

Before her Olympic glory, Alice Coachman dominated the high jump, 50-meter dash, and 100-meter dash while at Tuskegee University.

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Jackie Robinson Excelled at a Higher Level in Other Sports in College

Jackie Robinson’s best sport at UCLA was football, and before becoming a trailblazer by breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier, Robinson was a professional football player.  

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Black History Month: Don Barksdale

Barksdale was the first black NCAA basketball All-American, the first black to play on the USA Olympic basketball team, and the first black to be named to the NBA All-Star game. 

While at UCLA, Barksdale became the first black college basketball player to be named to the All-American team.

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Black History Month: Josh Gibson- Arguably the greatest home run hitter of all time

Josh Gibson was one of the most famous baseball players in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, even though he never played in the Major Leagues because owners would not sign black players. 

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Black History Month: Isaac Burns Murphy- One of the Greatest Jockeys of All Time

Isaac Burns Murphy is arguably the greatest jockey of all time.

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Before Title IX, The Tigerbelles dominated college sports

Without the help of legislation to create equality among men and women’s sports, Tennessee State built a winning women’s track program.

Without much financial assistance from their school, six Tennessee State Tigerbelles qualified for the 1956 Olympics.  (l-r) Mae Faggs, Lucinda Williams, Isabelle Daniels, Coach Ed Temple, Wilma Rudolph, Margaret Mathews, and Willie White.

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Political and social statements at the Olympics

Jesse Owens, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos shocked the world with their Olympic performances and statements

(Left photo)While silver medalist Lutz Long hailed Hitler, along with German officials and spectators, Jesse Owens saluted America at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. 

(Right photo) Tommy Smith (middle) and John Carlos (right) decided not to boycott the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.  Instead they raised one fist each to stand up for black rights.

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America’s Golden Girls

Florence Griffith-Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee combined for five gold medals in dominating fashion at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. 

Florence Griffith-Joyner (left) and Jackie Joyner-Kersee are two of the most celebrated female athletes in American sports history.

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Black History Month: The First Black Golfers

John Shippen played golf in an era before the PGA restricted blacks from the sport.  He played in the U.S. Open six times, twice finishing in fifth place, in 1896 and 1902.

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Los Angeles has a long and rich history of black professional football players


Woody Strode, Jackie Robinson, and Kenny Washington shared the same backfield at UCLA, and they were some of the first black professional football players when they all played in Los Angeles.

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First Black Major League Baseball Player

John W. “Bud” Fowler played Major League baseball in 1878.

John W. “Bud” Folwer, top row center, held the record for most seasons of a black man playing on white teams (11) until Jackie Robinson broke it in 1956.

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