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Each week on the Junior Curators blog, we travel back in time to a different place in Tennessee history. Stories may be about a famous person, place or event from Tennessee’s past. They will include things like priceless artifacts, pictures, videos, and even some games. Be sure to better understand the story by answering the questions at the end of each post.
After learning the story, be sure to share what you've learned with your parents, family, or friends. Try making your own exhibit about it, shooting a movie, or writing a story about it. Let your creativity run wild!
by Lauren Grizzard
Did you know that a Tennessean was an Olympic athlete? Do you know where “The Fastest Woman in the World” was from? To learn the answers and more, check out five things to know about Wilma Rudolph below!
1. Wilma Rudolph was born in St. Bethlehem (now Clarksville), Tennessee on June 23, 1940. If you visit Clarksville today, you will see a street and buildings named after her, and even a life sized statue!
2. As a child, Wilma had polio, double pneumonia, and scarlet fever leaving her unable to walk without a brace. She once said “My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.” Because of her determination, and with help from her mother and siblings, Wilma could walk on her own without a brace by age 11.
3. Wilma attended Tennessee State University (TSU), a historically Black university in Nashville (You can read more about TSU and historically Black colleges and universities here: https://tnmuseum.org/junior-curators/posts/the-tigers-of-tennessee!). While there, she ran track and field on the women’s team, the Tigerbelles, under legendary Coach Ed Temple. Coach Temple had helped train Wilma for the 1956 summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. She was only 16 and won a bronze medal that year!
Tennessee State Museum Collection.
4. In the 1960s Olympics in Rome, Italy, Wilma won three gold medals and broke three world records in the process! It was during this Olympics that she was given the title “The Fastest Woman in the World.”
5. Wilma Rudolph retired from track and field in 1962, but she continued to use her talent to teach others. Having been a Black female athlete in a time of segregation, Wilma had a lot of challenges to face. She said it best when she said: "The triumph cannot be had without the struggle. And I know what struggle is. I have spent a lifetime trying to share what it has meant to be a woman first in the world of sports so that other young women have a chance to reach their dreams." Wilma continues to inspire us today and makes us proud to share the name Tennessean.
To see more about Wilma Rudolph, including video footage of her competing at the Olympics, check out: https://www.olympic.org/wilma-rudolph
Lauren Grizzard is the Scheduling Coordinator at the Tennessee State Museum.