Black Athletes That Paved the Way

Written by Elijah Oliver

We may know athletes like Jackie Robinson or runner Jesse Owens, but beyond that society tends to forget other important athletes that changed our lives.

One person that changed sports greatly was Cassius Clay also known as Muhammad Ali. Ali was a great model for the African American community and showed great leadership values. At the age of 22 after winning the world heavyweight championship, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali because he thought of it as his slave name. He converted to Islam and established their customs. After refusing to go to the military, he had to serve a suspension in boxing and after that, he came back to win two heavyweight titles in the 1970s. When he retired at the age of 39 he devoted a lot of life to philanthropy. He supported many programs like the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In retirement, Ali won many awards and was an advocate for peace. He showed the world how to be a great leader and to follow in his footsteps.

Wilma Rudolph was a black sprinter who paved the way for track athletes today. At a young age, Rudolph faced many adversities. As a child she had double pneumonia, scarlet fever, and polio, she had problems with her left leg and had to wear a brace. She was also born prematurely. In the year of 1956 while she was still in high school she qualified for the Olympics and won a bronze medal. She attended Tennessee state University and trained hard for the next Olympics. During these Olympics in Rome, she became the first black lady to win 3 gold medals. She is known as a source of great inspiration for sprinters and set a benchmark for athletes today.

Photo by Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

The Muhammad Ali boxing DNA strand

About the author

Elijah Oliver