Edited by Gerald Boerner



JerryPhoto_thumb2_thumb_thumb_thumb_[2]_thumbToday we look at the third set of six (out of eighteen) African American women athletes who have had major impact on several sports during the 20th century. Many of these individuals are still alive and continue to work for the improvement of the status and experience of Blacks Women Athletes, both in the United States and abroad. Many of these athletes have helped to fight for the rights of the Black people in this country from slavery to freedom. These athletes have provided us with first-class entertainment on the tennis court, track and field venues (especially at the Olympic Games), and in other stadiums and arenas across the country. Many of these feats have been accomplished during the post-World War II decades. These women continue to fight for the rich heritage of the African American Women and provide role models to the young Black American females.


This is the third installment of a three part series that celebrates lives and achievements of these selected eighteen women athletes. It is, by necessity, a long document, but it details the lives and representative work of these very talented individuals.

Let us celebrate the lives and feats of these women who used their athletic talents for the cause of the African American people and the Civil Rights movement. We now will proceed to examine the lives and works of these African American Women in more detail GLB

These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 1885 Words ]


Quotations Related to Milestones in History — Athletes:

[ http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/athletes.html ]


“Among the world elite there are a handful of athletes who are physically capable of winning it.”
— Maurice Greene

“As athletes, we’re used to reacting quickly. Here, it’s ‘come, stop, come, stop.’ There’s a lot of downtime. That’s the toughest part of the day.”
— Michael Jordan

“Athletes know kids look up to them, and it’s important for athletes to be responsible.”
— Deion Sanders

“Athletes who take to the classroom naturally or are encouraged to focus on grades should be able to do well in the classroom. I believe the reason you go to college is to get your degree. It’s not a minor league or an audition for the pros.”
— Rebecca Lobo

“But as much as I am personally proud for winning five championships, I’m equally proud just being part of a women’s division that has gotten so much better with all these great athletes here.”
— Trish Stratus

“Getting to know athletes from all over the planet is a big part of the Olympic experience.”
— Mary Lou Retton

“Everything about the Olympics was first class, and women were treated as athletes and equals.”
— Elizabeth Robinson Schwartz

“For centuries, New York has served as the gateway for millions of people from all over the world in search of the American dream. It only makes sense that it would now serve as a gateway for the world’s greatest athletes.”
— Hillary Clinton


Unsung Heroes of Black History: Black Women Athletes, Part 3…


WNBA Game ActionDuring the last half century, Africans have taken their place on the stage of world-class athletics. Key events in this world-wide competition include the Grand Slam events in tennis, the Summer and Winter Olympic Games held every four years, and other world-class trials. We are looking today at the athletes that made their marks on this world stage.

Advocates of Title IX’s current interpretation cite increases in female athletic participation, and attribute those increases to Title IX. One study, completed in 2006, pointed to a large increase in the number of women participating in athletics at both the high school and college level. The number of women in high school sports had increased by a factor of nine, while the number of women in college sports had increased by more than 450%. A 2008 study of intercollegiate athletics showed that women’s collegiate sports has grown to 9,101 teams, or 8.65 per school. The five most frequently offered college sports for women are, in order: (1) Basketball, 98.8% of schools have a team, (2) Volleyball, 95.7%, (3) Soccer, 92.0%, (4) Cross Country, 90.8%, and (5) Softball, 89.2%.

At the same time, many contend that the current interpretation of Title IX by the OCR has resulted in the dismantling of men’s programs, despite strong participation in those sports. For example, though interest in the sport of wrestling has consistently increased at the high school level since 1990, scores of colleges have dropped their wrestling programs during that same period. The OCR’s three-prong test for compliance with Title IX often is cited as the reason for these cuts. Wrestling historically was the most frequently dropped sport, but other men’s sports later overtook the lead, such that according to the NCAA, the most-dropped men’s sports between 1987 and 2002 were as follows: Cross country (183), indoor track (180), golf (178), tennis (171), rowing (132), outdoor track (126), swimming (125) and wrestling (121).

A guideline announced by Vice President Joe Biden on 4 April 2011, on sexual harassment or violence, required that institutions conduct investigations and discipline on the preponderance of the evidence standard, rather than that of beyond reasonable doubt. The use of such a standard by the University of North Dakota has been criticized by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in the case of Caleb Warner, who was suspended for three years in January 2010 on the basis of a report by a complainant who was subsequently charged with filing a false report by state police, a decision which the University has refused to reconsider.

Editor: Our focus here is upon the unsung heroes of this African American experience as they have contributed to the Arts and Literature over the last two hundred years or so. Today, we focus upon those Black Women who have made significant contributions as athletes — Olympics Games, Tennis, and Basketball. Some were amateurs and others were professionals, but they all set examples for us all. Typically, their contributions have been ignored in favor of the contributions of their male counterparts. But the dozen plus women that we feature here have made significant contributions to the body of American Athletic scene. For that contribution, we salute them. (Part 3 of 3)


History Channel’s Unsung Heroes:
Black Women Athletes (Part 3)

Dominique Dawes (1976– )

With her bronze medal floor routine at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Dominique Dawes became the first African American to win an individual event medal in gymnastics. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

dominique-dawesDominique Margaux Dawes (born November 20, 1976, in Silver Spring, Maryland) is a retired United States artistic gymnast. She was 10-year member of the U.S. national gymnastics team, the 1994 U.S. all-around senior National Champion, a three-time Olympian, a World Championships silver medalist and a member of the gold-medal winning "Magnificent Seven" at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Dawes is also notable as being the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics, and the first black person of any nationality or gender to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. She is also one of only three female American gymnasts, along with Muriel Grossfeld and Linda Metheny-Mulvihill, to compete in three Olympics and was part of three Olympic medal-winning teams: Barcelona 1992 (bronze), Atlanta 1996 (gold), and Sydney 2000 (bronze). Dawes is the first female gymnast to be a part of three Olympic medal winning teams since Lyudmila Turischeva won gold in Mexico City (1968), Munich (1972), and Montreal (1976)…

1996 Olympics

The team, later nicknamed Magnificent 7, dominated the team competition. A key member of the team, Dawes performed without serious error and was the only team member to have all eight of her scores count towards the total. Along with Shannon Miller, Jaycie Phelps, Dominique Moceanu, Amanda Borden, Amy Chow and Kerri Strug, Dawes claimed her gold medal as part of the first American team to take the Olympic title. Another first, she became the first black woman of any nationality to win an Olympic gold in gymnastics.

Later in the week, however, Dawes lost yet another opportunity to win a major all-around title. Going into the competition, she was considered one of the heavy favorites to medal. She was ranked sixth overall among all competitors after the team event, and her scores from team optionals were the highest on the American team and the second highest overall. Dawes led the competition after two rotations, with Shannon Miller right behind her. Both gymnasts were on Floor Exercise for the 3rd rotation. Miller had a substantial mistake in her routine, knocking her out of the medals. On the middle tumbling pass of Dawes’s floor routine, she under-rotated for fear that she might step out of bounds; she sat down the tumbling pass (and went out of bounds anyway) causing her position to plummet in the standings. NBC cameras zoomed in on Dawes, sitting in tears as her score from floor exercise was announced (it was an even 9.000), which led to numerous boos from the audience. She managed to pull out a decent Vault score, but finished 17th overall. In the Event Finals, she placed sixth on Vault and just out of the medals on Uneven Bars, but redeemed herself by winning Bronze in Floor Exercise finals, her first World Championship or Olympic medal in what had long been considered her best event.

2000 Olympics

Between 1996 and 1998 Dawes competed in various professional meets but retreated from elite competition. She returned briefly in 1998 to participate in the Goodwill Games, where she placed 19th in the Mixed Pairs event with Chainey Humphrey. However, she placed 9th all-around at 2000 U.S. Nationals and 7th at the Olympic Trials, and earned a spot on her third Olympic team.

In team preliminaries at the Sydney Olympics, Dominique Dawes posted the second highest score of the American team on uneven bars but the lowest on beam. In the team finals, she performed well on three events and contributed to the team’s bronze medal, awarded April 28, 2010 when the International Olympic Committee stripped China of its 2000 team medal for an underage competitor. This third Olympic team medal gives Dawes more Olympic team medals than any other US gymnast in history.

Maritza Correia (1981– )

At the 2004 Olympics Trials, Maritza Correia was the first African American woman to make the US Olympic Women’s Swim Team. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

dominique-dawesMaritza ("Ritz") Correia (born December 23, 1981) is an Olympic-swimmer from the United States. When she qualified for the USA Olympic Team in 2004, she became the first Puerto Rican of African descent to be on the USA Olympic Swimming Team. She also became the first Black United States swimmer to set an American and World swimming record.

Correia was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her parents, Vincent and Anne, had moved there from Guyana. In 1988, when Correia was seven years old, she was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. Her doctor recommended that Maritza take swimming classes and use swimming as a treatment for her condition. In 1990, her family moved and settled in Tampa, Florida.

Correia hoped to participate at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. She went to the Olympic Trials, but she missed making the team. This was one of the lowest points of her career; she suffered depression, became disappointed at the sport of swimming, and needed psychological help. However, a 2000 Team USA member who remains very close friends with her, along with a psychologist, helped her come out of her depression, and re-emerge as a top swimmer.

In 2001, Correia won a gold medal in the 800m freestyle and two bronze medals in the medley and 400m freestyle relay as a member of the U.S. Team at the 2001 World Championship celebrated in Japan.

In 2002, Correia became the national champion in both the 50y and 100y freestyle and was a member of two winning relay teams at the NCAA Championships celebrated in Austin, Texas. She set the NCAA, American and U.S. Open records with a time of 21.69 in the 50 y freestyle, surpassing Amy Van Dyken’s mark of 21.77 set in 1994. She earned seven All-American certificates and she was awarded the Commissioner’s Cup as the high point scorer in the SEC Championships.

In 2003, Correia earned a gold medal swimming on prelim 400 m free relay at the World Championships. In 2004, she won a gold medal swimming prelims at the 400 m free relay at the Short Course World Championships and earned an Olympic silver medal swimming prelims of the 400m free relay at the 2004 Olympic Games celebrated in Athens, Greece.

Briana Scurry (1971– )

Briana Scurry was the goalie for the US Women’s Soccer team when the won the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

briana-scurryBriana Colette Scurry (born September 7, 1971 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is a retired American soccer goalkeeper. Scurry was the starting goalkeeper for the United States women’s national soccer team at the 1995 World Cup (3rd place), 1996 Olympics (gold medal), 1999 World Cup (champions), 2003 World Cup (3rd place), 2004 Olympics (gold medal) and 2007 World Cup (3rd place). She was a founding member of the WUSA, playing three seasons as starting goalkeeper for the Atlanta Beat (2001–2003).

Her career total of 173 international appearances is the most among female soccer goalkeepers. It is also the tenth most of any American female player, and the twentieth most among all women.

On June 23, 2008 United States Women’s Olympic soccer coach Pia Sundhage announced that Scurry would not be on the Olympic team.

On March 13, 2009, Scurry was named to the preseason roster of the Washington Freedom, in the inaugural season of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). She suffered a season-ending injury early in the 2010 season, and announced her retirement later that year on September 8.

Off the field, Scurry may be seen with First Lady Michelle Obama helping in the fight against childhood obesity

Scurry was named the National Goalkeeper of the Year in 1993 by the Missouri Athletic Club Sports Foundation. A 1993 second-team All-American, All-Northeast Region and All-New England first-team selection. Helped lead the University of Massachusetts to a 17-3-3 record, to the semifinals of the NCAA women’s soccer championship and the titles of the Atlantic 10 Conference regular season and tournament in 1993.

Completed her four-year collegiate career with 37 shutouts in 65 starts and with a career record of 48-13-4 and a 0.56 goals-against-average. In her senior season, she started all 23 games and recorded 15 shutouts and a 0.48 goals-against average, the third best in the nation. Split time in the net in 1992 during her junior season, starting 13 games and earning seven shutouts. Played three games in 1992 as a forward. Started in all 19 games for the Minutewomen in 1991 as a sophomore where she recorded 12 shutouts and allowed just nine goals.

Cheryl Miller (1964– )

[Not in History Channel List] Cheryl Miller once scored over 100 points in a single high school game. She was a top college basketball player at USC, a coach, and broadcaster TNT Sports.

Cheryl MillerCheryl D. Miller (born on January 3, 1964 in Riverside, California) is a former college basketball player, coach and sportscaster for TNT. She is currently a sideline reporter for NBA games on TNT Sports and also works for NBA TV as a reporter and analyst having worked previously as a sportscaster for ABC Sports, TBS Sports and ESPN. She was also head coach and General Manager of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

In 1995, Miller was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1999, she was inducted into the inaugural class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Knoxville, Tennessee. On August 20, 2010, Miller was also inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame for her success in international play.

At the University of Southern California (USC), the 6 ft. 4 in. (1.87 m) Miller played the forward position. She was a four-year letter winner, scored 3,018 career points (fifth all-time in NCAA history), and was a four-time All-American. Her career rebounding mark of 1,534 ranks her third all-time in NCAA history. Miller was named Naismith College Player of the Year three times and earned the Wade Trophy (Player of the Year) once. At USC, Miller led the Trojans to a 112-20 record and NCAA titles in 1983 and 1984 and was named NCAA Tournament MVP both years. Miller’s teammates included Cynthia Cooper, two-time WNBA MVP; Pam McGee, 1984 Olympian and All-American, and Paula McGee, 1982 and 1983 All-American. Miller was coached by Linda K. Sharp, one of college basketball’s most winning coaches. During her senior season, Miller picked up her third Naismith Award, the Broderick Award as the Female College Basketball Player of the Year. Miller still holds numerous Trojan career records, including points (3,018, 23.6 ppg), rebounds (1,534, 12.0 rpg), field goals made (1,159), free throws made (700), games played (128), and steals (462). Miller’s previous Trojan records in assists (414) was almost doubled by Rhonda Windham (735); Lisa Leslie topped her blocked shot record by one (321).

Miller led the U.S. team to the gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and was also part of the gold medal teams at the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela and 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow.

In 1993 she took the head coaching job at her alma mater, USC, after the university chose to fire coach Marianne Stanley.

Lisa Leslie (1972– )

Lisa Leslie a nationally recognized college and WNBA basketball player, was the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

lisa-leslieLisa Deshaun Leslie-Lockwood (born July 7, 1972) is a former American professional women’s basketball player in the WNBA. She is a three-time WNBA MVP and a four-time Olympic gold medal winner. The number seven pick in the 1997 inaugural WNBA draft, she followed a superb career at the University of Southern California with seven WNBA All-Star appearances and two WNBA championships over the course of eleven seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, before retiring in 2009. Leslie, a 6’5" center, is the first player to dunk in a WNBA game. She was considered a pioneer and cornerstone of the league during her WNBA career. In 2011, she was voted in by fans as one of the Top 15 players in WNBA history.

Leslie decided to stay close to home and attend women’s basketball powerhouse the University of Southern California from 1990–1994. She graduated from USC with a bachelor’s degree in communications and later completed her master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

Her college basketball career was spectacular. Leslie played in a total of 120 college games, averaging 20.1 points, hitting 53.4% of her shots, and knocking down 69.8% of her free throws. She set the PAC-10 [PAC-12] conference records for scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots accumulating 2,414 points, 1,214 boards, and 321 blocked shots. She also holds the USC single season record for blocked shots in a single season (95).

During her college career, USC compiled an impressive 89–31 record. They won one PAC-10 [PAC-12] conference championship and earned four NCAA tournament appearances. Leslie was honored with All PAC-10 recognition all four years, as well as becoming the first player in PAC-10 history to obtain first team all four years and earn the prestigious Rookie of the Year award in 1991. Leslie was also honored on the national platform by earning the National Freshman of the year award in 1991, and recognition as the nation’s best female basketball player earning the National Player of the year in 1994. In 1992, 93, and 94, she earned All-American Honors as well.


The WNBA was incorporated in 1996 and commenced play in 1997. Leslie was drafted on January 22 by the Los Angeles Sparks as part of the Initial Allocation phase of the draft. She helped the Sparks make the playoffs five consecutive times, but the team did not win a WNBA title until 2001. That year, Leslie was named the 2001 Sportswoman of the Year (in the team category) by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

On July 12, 2002, Leslie became the first woman to dunk the ball in a WNBA game. That same year she became the first WNBA player to score over 3,000 total career points and contributed to the Sparks winning their second straight world championship that season. Two seasons later, she became the first player to reach the 4,000-career point milestone. Leslie remains the Sparks’ career scoring and rebounding leader, as well as the all time league leader in rebounds. On August 11, 2009, Leslie became the first player to score 6,000 points in a career.And she was their First player to dunk on their team, Earlier that month she was the first player to reach 10,000 career PRA (points + rebounds + assists), a statistic fundamental to the WNBA "Pick One Challenge" fantasy game.

Lisa Leslie announced her retirement effective at the end of the 2009 season on February 4, 2009. The Sparks held a farewell ceremony for Leslie during their final home game of the season in September. She finished holding the league records for points (6,263), rebounds (3,307) and PRA (10,444). In 2011, she was voted in by fans as one of the Top 15 players in the fifteen year history of the WNBA.

Laila Ali (1977– )

Laila Ali, the daughter of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, is now a successful boxer in her own right. (Photo Credit: Corbis)

laila-aliLaila Amaria Ali (born December 30, 1977) is a retired American professional boxer. She is the daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali from his third wife Veronica Porsche Ali.

Ali began her boxing career when she was 15 years old.When she first noticed women’s boxing she was watching a Christy Martin fight. She first came out about the news on the morning show Good Morning Africa when interviewing with Diane Sawyer. On the show Ali quoted "I’ve been contemplating doing it since I was 18, ever since I found out that women boxed". When she first told her father, Muhammad Ali, that she was planning on pursing a boxing career he was not happy about her going into such a dangerous profession. She explained to her father that she was going to box whether he liked it or not. In her first match, on December 8, 1999, she boxed April Fowler of Michigan City, Indiana. They fought at the Turning Stone Casino Convention Center on the Oneida Indian Nation in Verona, New York. Although this was Ali’s first match, many media and fans were there, the main reason being because she is Muhammad Ali’s daughter. Ali knocked out April Fowler in the first round. Ali also won her second match by a TKO with only 3 seconds left on the clock. In that match her opponent was Shadina Pennybaker who is from Pittsburgh. They fought at the Mountaineer Race Track in Chester, West Virginia.

Ali ran off eight wins in a row and many boxing fans started talking about wanting to see her square off in a boxing ring with George Foreman’s daughter, Freeda Foreman, or Joe Frazier’s daughter, Jackie Frazier-Lyde. On the evening of June 8, 2001, Ali and Frazier finally met. The fight was nicknamed Ali/Frazier IV in allusion to their fathers’ famous fight trilogy. Ali won by a majority judges’ decision in eight rounds. This match by Ali and Frazier was the first pay-for-view match between two black women. During that match, Joe Frazier, Jackie Frazier’s father, was there to watch his daughter fight. Muhammad Ali, Laila’s father, was not there but her mother Veronica Ali was present to watch the fight.

After a year’s hiatus, on June 7, 2002 Ali beat Shirvelle Williams in a six-round decision. She won the IBA title with a second-round knockout of Suzette Taylor on August 17 in Las Vegas. On November 9, she retained that title and unified the crown by adding the WIBA and IWBF belts with an eight-round TKO win over her division’s other world champion, Valerie Mahfood, in Las Vegas. Mahfood and Ali met in a long-awaited bout on November 8, 2002. A bloodied Mahfood was stopped by Ali in eight rounds in a fight that unified the IWBF world title with the WIBA title.


The paragraphs in italics above were taken from the slide show published by the History Channel (see References). Click HERE to access that slideshow. The photographs of the women are courtesy of Corbis and Getty Images.



WNBA Top 15 Candidates… (5:03)


Please take time to further explore more about Dominique Dawes, African Americans, Maritza Correia, Laila Ali, Black History Month, Black Women Athletes, Lisa Leslie, Cheryl Miller, and Briana Scurry by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below…





Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: African Americans

Wikipedia: Dominique Dawes…

Wikipedia: Maritza Correia…

Wikipedia: Briana Scurry…

Wikipedia: Cheryl Miller…

Wikipedia: Lisa Leslie…

Wikipedia: Laila Ali…

Women Talk Sports: Black History Month – Honoring Female Athletes…

CBS Interactive: 10 Greatest Women Athletes…

History Channel: Black Women in Art and Literature: Black Women Athletes

Brainy Quote: Athletes Quotes…


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Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Satchel Paige: Negro Leaguer Inducted into the Hall of Fame…

Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Jimmy Carter: Boycott of the Moscow Olympics…

Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Reggie Jackson: 1977 World Series, “Mr. October”…

Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Henry Aaron: Breaks Babe Ruth’s Career Home Run Record…