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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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“Olympian Quintessence”

“Olympian Quintessence”

Wilma Rudolph, Athletic Femininity, and American Iconicity, 1960–1962

(p.139) 5 “Olympian Quintessence”
Passing the Baton

Cat M. Ariail

University of Illinois Press

This chapter deconstructs the iconicity of Wilma Rudolph, following the 1960 Olympic Games and continuing through the 1961 and 1962 US–Soviet Union dual track and field meets. Widely admired for her great athleticism and graceful femininity, Rudolph seemed to transcend barriers of race and gender, allowing her to earn acclaim as an American icon. However, while the popular image of Rudolph advertised an ostensibly more inclusive American identity, understandings of her in fact inscribed a disciplinary, exclusive model of Americanness. Both white and black sport cultures redeployed ideologies of race, gender, and femininity to contain the more radical possibilities represented by black women’s athleticism and preserve a more conservative model of American belonging.

Keywords:   Wilma Rudolph, race, gender, femininity, American identity, track and field

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