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Passing the BatonBlack Women Track Stars and American Identity$
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Cat M. Ariail

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043482

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043482.001.0001

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Sprints of Citizenship

Sprints of Citizenship

Identity Politics and Black Women’s Athleticism, 1951–1952

(p.46) 2 Sprints of Citizenship
Passing the Baton

Cat M. Ariail

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines how the performances of black women athletes at the 1951 Pan-American Games and 1952 Olympic Games made it difficult for the institutions of mainstream American sport to advance an uncontested image of American identity. Due to the conditions of the Cold War, the United States Olympic Committee and Amateur Athletic Union became more committed to using athletes to advertise the believed superiority of American democracy. Because of their race and gender, black women track stars disrupted this project, inserting blackness and femaleness into the image of Americanness through their accomplishments. In doing so, they also demonstrated that sport, despite its conservative connotations, served as a rare cultural space in which black American women could display their capacity and autonomy.

Keywords:   women athletes, American identity, race, gender, Cold War, Olympic Games, Pan-American Games

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