Black women that changed the world through sports and paved the way for future generations

Written By Kayla Sterner, Co-Sports Editor

Since the dawn of time Black women have been the voice of change. Through their determination and knowledge they have sparked momentum to trailblaze a path for future generations of women, and sports are no different. Black women have made their mark in the industry breaking barriers to give all women and people of color a place in athletics, even before the passing of Title IX, which was made to put an end to sex-based discrimination. Let’s kick off Women’s History Month with four athletes that influenced the games we know today. 


Toni Stone

Before Title IX blessed women with the opportunity to play sports, women were already excelling in athletics. Toni Stone, also known as the “female Jackie Robinson” was the first woman to play professional baseball in a men’s league. Stone was a second baseman for the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro American League, which allowed people of color to play baseball while segregation was still alive and well in the major leagues. Her skills were impressive, to say the least, as she replaced Hank Aaron at second base and got a hit off of the legendary Satchel Paige in 1953. 

At only 16 she broke barriers when she joined the all-male semi-pro Twin Cities Colored Giants Club. Fast forward to 1946 and the West Virginia native would play for the San Francisco Sea Lions in the West Coast Negro Baseball League. By 1949 she had journeyed to the East and was a member of the New Orleans Black Pelicans before traveling to the Negro Southern League to play for the New Orleans Creole.

In 1993 she was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. Stone died in 1996 but her legacy lives on, inspiring young women all around the globe to lace up their spikes and play ball. 


Mo’ne Davis

A granddaughter of Title IX, Mo’ne Davis has been able to show why girls rule. In 2014, Davis became the first girl to pitch in the Little League World Series. A Philadelphia native, she played for the Philly Taney Dragons and performed impressively well in the spotlight. 

At only 13, she pitched a 4-0 shutout in the LLWS against the opponent from Nashville and was clocked throwing a 70 miles per hour fastball. Now, just shy of 22 years old, Davis is an infielder for the Hampton University softball team in Virginia.

 Her work in the sports world will not be over after graduation as she plans to be a baseball sportscaster. She has already interned with the DC Grays baseball team calling their games and was on air in 2019 for the KidsCast broadcasts in 2019 for the LLWS. On top of that, she has contributed to several MLB network productions. Davis proves that women belong where men are, and I hope everyone is ready to see another Black woman make waves in the sports industry. You aren’t stopping her.

Let it be known that had Stone never gotten her chance at the plate in the 20th century, we wouldn’t have seen Davis on the mound. Stone walked so Davis could run.


Lusia Harris

Her name is Lusia Harris but she deserves the honor of being a queen… of basketball that is. Nicknamed the “Queen of Basketball,” Harris was part of the first generation to reap the benefits of Title IX. Harris played college basketball at Delta State University (1973-77) and led the team to three consecutive national championships, something that would not have been possible without the passage of Title IX in 1972 that gave DSU a women’s basketball team.

At Delta State, the 6-foot-3 center averaged 25.9 points per game and 14.4 rebounds per game in 115 contests. In 1976 she traveled to Montreal with the rest of Team USA to participate in the first Olympic games that featured women’s basketball. The Mississippi native returned to America as a silver medalist.

Harris really hit the spotlight in 1977 when she became the first and only woman to be drafted into the National Basketball Association.  With the 137th overall pick, the New Orleans Jazz drafted her. Although she turned down the offer because of self-doubt and wanting to start a family, I know she would have held her own on the court.

In 1992 she became the first female college player in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Queen of Basketball passed away in January of 2018, but her light on the court will never dim.


Wilma Rudolph

Born in 1940 in St. Bethlehem, TN, as the 20th of 22 children, Wilma Rudoplh sprinted her way into history… literally. Rudolph was the first woman and first woman of African American descent to win three gold medals in one Olympic game. In addition to that, in 1956 she became the youngest member of the US Olympic team. At only 16 years old she won a bronze medal in the 400-meter relay.

In Rome for the 1960 games she took home gold in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes as well as the 4×100 meter relay. With the wind to aid her, Rudolph ran an 11.0 second 100-meter dash and set a then-Olympic record after she finished the 200 meter race in 23.2 seconds. She followed up with a 24.0 second 200-meter dash in the finals — still good for gold. But she wasn’t done setting world records. In the 4×100 meter her team set another record as they finished in 44.4 seconds.

Rudolph also saw success at Tennessee State University after being recruited to run by coach Ed Temple. He originally saw her when she was only 14 years old playing basketball. Seeing her potential, he invited her to his summer camp. In 1956, she and five other Tigerbelles made the Olympic team.

In 1960 and 1961 Rudolph was named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year and won the James E. Sullivan Award in 1961. Tennessee State University named their indoor track facility after the track star in 1980. In 1994 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and diagnosed with brain and throat cancer. She unfortunately passed away on November 12 of that same year.

I think the most important part of her success story is that it wasn’t supposed to happen. Rudolph was very sick as a child and wore leg braces from six years old until ten years old. Doctors thought she would not be able to walk, but she proved them wrong. Resilience at its best.