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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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Winning as American Women

Winning as American Women

The Heteronormativity of Black Women Athletic Heroines, 1958–1960

(p.115) 4 Winning as American Women
Passing the Baton

Cat M. Ariail

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explores how black women athletes began to emerge as accepted exemplars of American identity after their performance at the inaugural US–Soviet Union dual track and field meet in Moscow in 1958. An almost perfect adherence to normative, white-defined gender expectations allowed black American track women to assume this symbolic status. These young women athletes, especially the sprinters and jumpers of Tennessee State University, now protected, rather than contested, the relationship between race, gender, and Americanness. The celebrated emergence of Wilma Rudolph ahead of and during the 1960 Olympic Games highlights the central role of heteronormativity in determining the boundaries of belonging in modern America.

Keywords:   women athletes, track and field, American identity, race, gender, heteronormativity, Wilma Rudolph

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