William Dehart Hubbard's Leap Into History



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At the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, William DeHart Hubbard earned his place in history. The track-and-field athlete became the first African-American to win a gold medal in an individual event, the running long jump.

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This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

Now, the latest essay in our Black History Month tribute, we've invited members of the TELL ME MORE staff, some of our guests and our NPR colleagues to share stories about the figure or event from black history that they most admire. Today one of our guests honors a star athlete and a relative.

KEN BLACKWELL: I'm Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the former secretary of state in Ohio. The black history figure I most admire is my uncle, Dehart Hubbard, who was the first black American to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event. He competed in track and field at the 1924 Paris Olympics, the one made famous in the movie "Chariots of Fire." And he won the gold in the long jump competition.

Dehart Hubbard didn't compete in all events for which he qualified, not because he didn't want to, but because he wasn't allowed to. He was denied a fair chance to race by the International Olympic Committee because of his race. But this didn't embitter him. Having been a star athlete at the University of Michigan, it motivated him to compete even harder.

After Paris, he returned to his hometown of Cincinnati and started the Cincinnati Tigers of the American Negro Baseball League. Although he's most remembered for his track and field accomplishments, Dehart Hubbard, a Christian, was most proud to be running the race described in Hebrews 12 of the Holy Scriptures, one where the real finish line awaited him in heaven.

MARTIN: That was Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the family research council. He's a former secretary of state from Ohio with a black history tribute to his uncle, Dehart Hubbard, the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.