b.1862 – d.1931. Anti-lynching crusader, journalist, and advocate for racial justice and women’s suffrage. For Wells-Barnett, overcoming racism and halting the violent murder of black men was a central mission among her wide-ranging struggles for justice and human dignity. Born in Mississippi, she was educated at Rust University, actually a high school and industrial school. From 1884 to 1891, she taught in a rural school near Memphis and attended summer classes at Fisk University in Nashville.
A pattern of resistance to racial subordination was set early in Wells’ life. In 1887, she purchased a railroad ticket in Memphis and took a seat in the section reserved for whites. When she refused to move, she was physically thrown off the train. She successfully sued the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad for damages. Upon appeal, however, the Supreme Court of Tennessee reversed the lower court’s ruling. Continue reading
At the 1988 Olympic trials, while outfitted in a one-legged purple track suit and sporting four inch fingernails, she set a world record in the 100 meters, running it at 10.49 seconds, knocking more than a quarter of a second off her best-ever time despite not even being one of the country’s best in the event a year earlier.
Florence Delorez Griffith grew up in a housing project in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles as the seventh of eleven children. From an early age, Griffith enjoyed competition and sought attention. She held handstand competitions, rode around on a unicycle, designed unique clothes for her Barbie doll, wore strange hairdos and owned a trained pet rat. And she was fast. Florence’s father often told a story about taking the kids to the nearby Mojave Desert when she was five and challenging them to chase jackrabbits. Florence caught one. “Jackrabbit” became her nickname.
By age 7, she was competing in track. In high school, she set records in sprints and the long jump. Following graduation, she competed at Cal State Northridge under the legendary sprint coach Bob Kersee and helped them win the national championship in 1978. Continue reading