Below is the second part of "African-American Sports Heroes."
Wilma Rudolph was born in 1940. As a youngster, she was diagnosed with double pneumonia and scarlet fever. Because of this, Rudolph wore leg braces until the age of eleven. She was determined to do well in life, and when she no longer needed braces, she started running in track events.
As a student at Tennessee State University, she qualified for the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Rudolph won the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes and the 4x100-meter relay. She was known as "The World's Fastest Woman."
The late 1950s and 1960s were an exciting period for African-American athletes. With a confidence strengthened by the civil-rights movement, many of these athletes forged ahead in the mission to unite all people and also to give African-Americans a dignified place in society.
Arthur Ashe was born in Virginia in 1943. His father was a tennis instructor, and Arthur came to love tennis from an early age. In 1968, he became the first African-American ever to win the U.S. Open. However, his work outside of tennis was what really made him a hero. He was determined to unite white people and people of color, and he worked to help end inequality in South Africa.
In 1957, Althea Gibson rewrote history when she became the first African-American woman to play in the U.S. Nationals tennis tournament, which she also went on to win.
Gibson had won the French Open in 1956 and also won the Wimbledon tournament in 1957 and 1958. She was able to give African-Americans hope that anything is possible.
Michael Jordan is one of those rare athletes that we see once or twice a century. Gifted with unbelievable athletic ability and charm, Michael was the college player of the year at the University of North Carolina in 1984. He went on to win the NBA title six times with the Chicago Bulls and set countless scoring records.
In 1994, seeking another challenge, he became a member of the Chicago White Sox baseball team. Michael struggled as a baseball player but then made a great comeback with the Bulls in 1995. He retired in 1999 and became president of the Washington Wizards basketball organization. We have not heard the last from Michael Jordan, the most famous athlete of our time.
The last fifty years have seen great achievements by African-American athletes. They have desegregated sports and have been a force in ending discrimination in America through hard work, grace, leadership, and talent. The new generation continues to build upon these achievements.
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