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African American Athlete

John Baxter Taylor:  1st African American To Win An Olympic Gold Medal

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

john baxter taylor
John Baxter Taylor (1882-1908)

 John Baxter Taylor (1882 – 1908) was the first African American to win an Olympic Gold Medal.   Taylor was born in Washington, DC. During his childhood, the family relocated to Philadelphia where he attended Central High School and joined the track team there. He was the team’s only African American member.  After graduating from high school in 1902, Taylor enrolled in Brown Preparatory School where he became the star runner on the track team. One year later, he enrolled in Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. 

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Darlene Anderson:  1st African American Woman To Become A Professional Roller Derby Skater

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

 darlene anderson


Darlene Anderson made history in 1958 when she became the first African American female roller derby professional skater.  Anderson was very athletic, playing sports in high school.  Her mother stopped her from playing baseball because she felt the sport was too rough.  Anderson took up roller derby instead.  Her parent’s thought she was taking ice-skating lessons.  She didn’t let them know right away it was roller derby; being fearful that they would make her quit.  Anderson’s parents were raising her to be a “lady” and she knew they would not approve of her competing in a sport like roller derby.

She had no idea that she would compete professionally in the sport.  At that time, roller derby was an extremely popular sport across the U.S.  A time trial held at Olympic Auditorium, gave Anderson her “big break”.  The time trial launched her career as a professional roller derby skater.  Though skeptical at first, Anderson’s parents became her biggest supporters.  She rose to fame quickly, unanimously winning, 1958 “rookie of the year” award at age 19 while skating for the Brooklyn Red Devils.  She also skated professionally for the Hawaii All Stars, San Francisco Bay Bombers, New York Chiefs, Los Angeles Braves, and many other teams.

Anderson felt she was treated well by her teammates and other professionals within the sport.  She would encounter the occasional rowdy fan but feels she was accepted as an equal with other skaters.  After concluding her career, she accomplished another “first”, becoming the first African American woman to be a Pari Mutuels Clerk with the Southern California Racing Association.  Pari Mutuels  is a  form of betting at horse tracks.


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