Queen of the Track

written by Heather Lang, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

From running and jumping barefoot through the fields of Georgia to shaking hands with King George VI of England, the story of the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

Born in 1923, Alice Coachman was raised in the heart of the segregated South, where she was often denied the opportunity to train for or compete in organized sports events. She improvised her training, running barefoot in fields and on dirt roads, using old equipment or piecing together makeshift hurdles and high jump bars. Her early successes in high school earned her scholarships to Tuskegee Institute, high school and college, where she dominated her track and field events for over 10 years. She had to wait through the 1940 and 1944 Olympic competitions cancelled by World War II before getting a chance to achieve her dream. Her training, perseverance, and patience paid off when she became the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal; hers was awarded for the high jump event at the London Games of 1948.

More about Alice Coachman’s later life, the 1948 Olympic Games, and other resources is included in the author’s notes at the end of the book. The marvelous pastel illustrations draw the reader into the story. The warm earth tones and realistically portrayed emotions of the characters add depth and richness to this inspirational beginning biography.