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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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The Precarity of the Baton Pass

The Precarity of the Baton Pass

Race, Gender, and the Enduring Barriers to American Belonging

(p.165) Conclusion The Precarity of the Baton Pass
Passing the Baton

Cat M. Ariail

University of Illinois Press

The chapter briefly surveys the status of black and white women athletes in the aftermath of Wilma Rudolph. By appearing to combine elite athleticism and appropriate femininity, Rudolph opened a cultural space for young white women to begin participating in track and field and other highly competitive sports. At the same time, the political and social ruptures of the mid- to late 1960s United States rendered black women track stars less resonant symbols of American identity, as demonstrated by the fate of the Tigerbelle sprint star who succeeded Rudolph, Wyomia Tyus. However, during the conservative culture of the 1980s, black women track athletes would reemerge as icons of Americanness. Black American track women thus are barometers of the boundaries of American belonging, with their variable periods of visibility and invisibility revealing much about the relationship between race, gender, sexuality, and national identity.

Keywords:   women athletes, American identity, race, gender, culture

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