Other Free Encyclopedias » Famous Sports Stars » Track and Field » Wilma Rudolph Biography - Early Obstacles, Not Just Walking, But Running, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Wins Bronze At Melbourne Olympics - SELECTED WRITINGS BY RUDOLPH:

Wilma Rudolph - Early Obstacles

african american school brace

Wilma Glodean Rudolph was born June 23, 1940, in Bethlehem, Tennessee, to a poor and very large family. Her father, Ed Rudolph, had eleven children by an earlier marriage, and had eight more with Wilma's mother, Blanche Rudolph. Wilma was the fifth of this second set of children. When she was born, she weighed only four and a half pounds.

During Rudolph's infancy, the family moved to a house on Kellogg Street in Clarksville, Tennessee, where her father worked as a railroad porter and did odd jobs, and her mother worked six days a week as a maid in the homes of wealthy white families in Clarksville.

When Rudolph was four years old, she contracted polio, for which there was no immunization or curative treatment. The illness weakened her, and she also suffered through double pneumonia and scarlet fever, which almost killed her. Although she survived, her left leg remained paralyzed from the polio. Her parents took her to a specialist at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, who told them that in order for Rudolph's leg to regain strength, they would have to do therapeutic massage. For the next two years, Wilma and

Wilma Rudolph

her mother visited Meharry each week for heat and water therapy. Every other day of the week, Rudolph's mother, with three of her older siblings, took turns massaging the crippled limb at least four times a day.

During her weekly trips to Nashville, Rudolph saw the deep segregation of races that existed at that time in the South. Traveling on a Greyhound bus, she noted that the African-American passengers had to sit in the back, and that there were separate ticket windows, waiting areas, and restrooms for African Americans. In addition, if white passengers did not have seats, African Americans were expected to give up their seats and stand in the aisle for the duration of the trip.

When Rudolph was five years old, her doctors fitted her with a steel brace on her left leg. She was supposed to wear the brace from the moment she got up until she went to bed at night. She hated the brace, because it was a visible sign that she had a physical problem, and she wanted to be like everyone else. When her parents were not around, Rudolph often took off the brace and tried to walk without a limp. In her autobiography, Wilma, she wrote that even as a child she was aware that, "From that day on [when she walked normally], people were going to start separating me from that brace, start thinking about me differently, start saying that Wilma is a healthy kid, just like the rest of them." This knowledge, and the desire to walk like everyone else, became a driving force in her life.

In 1947, at the age of seven, Rudolph entered Cobb Elementary School in Clarksville. Her poor health had forced her to miss kindergarten and first grade, so she entered at the second-grade level. The school, which enrolled only African-American students, included all grades from elementary through high school, and its facilities, curriculum, and materials were inferior to those of local white schools. However, Rudolph loved school, and found that it changed her life. From being a sickly, often-teased child, she became accepted by other children. "I needed to belong, and I finally did," she wrote in Wilma.

At Cobb Elementary, the students were taught some African-American history, with an emphasis on African American achievements, but did not discuss prejudice or oppression. Rudolph wrote, "The object of it was to give us black kids somebody to be proud of, not to tell us we were still oppressed."

Interestingly, Rudolph had red, sandy hair and light skin, and in her autobiography, she wrote that next to some of her darker-skinned brothers and sisters, she "felt like an albino." Her awareness of her appearance, coupled with her growing awareness in the disparities in American culture's treatment of African Americans and whites, made her believe as a child that "all white people were mean and evil." As she grew up, her anger about society's treatment of African Americans would be tempered by her Christian religious beliefs, which taught tolerance and forgiveness.

Rudolph's teacher, Mrs. Allison, was a kind, generous woman who boosted Rudolph's self-esteem and confidence. A later teacher, Mrs. Hoskins, who taught fourth grade, was a martinet who once spanked Rudolph and who was known, Rudolph wrote, as the "meanest, toughest teacher in the whole school." However, Rudolph came to respect her because she "had no pets in class, no favorites, and treated everybody equally." Hoskins taught Rudolph to go out and work to achieve her goals, rather than simply daydreaming about them. This attitude would later fuel Rudolph as she worked on her athletic training.

Wilma Rudolph - Not Just Walking, But Running [next]

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almost 6 years ago

this was really good information. thank you !!!!!

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about 7 years ago

I have seen what wilma had to go thru when she was alive. she is a great rollmodel.

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over 9 years ago

This website has actully made me look at Wilma and say she's a rollmodel. She made her dreams come true. That's what I wnt to do

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almost 10 years ago

u go girl

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almost 10 years ago

Wilma is my new role model.She is tough.I love you!!!!!!!!!!

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almost 7 years ago

wow wilma you did a wonderful job trying your best!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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almost 10 years ago

I am doing Wilma Rudolph for a historcal project and she is so interesting.

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over 7 years ago

she is my inspiration to run and i hope to become a runner in the future and i love her determination

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almost 9 years ago

She is so amazing if i was in that situation i don't no if i could do that

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over 5 years ago

Wilma rudolph is my hero 4 my skool project this is so AWESOME

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about 7 years ago

WilmaRudolph Rocks!!!!!!!

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almost 5 years ago

go girl

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almost 7 years ago

i love to run so it is so coll im doing wilma rudolph for my hero with my english project

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almost 10 years ago

i AM ALSO DOiNG A PROJECT ON WiLMA RUDOLPH AND SHE iS MY ROLE MODEL!AND ENCOURAGES ME TO DO THiNGS i CANT.



:D

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almost 5 years ago

I am doing a project on Wilma Rudolph and it is due monday and she is a really great person

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about 6 years ago

bn gfnm

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over 6 years ago

im doing a report on Wilma an she is amazing i want be a runner too

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over 7 years ago

omg i absolutely love Mrs. Rudolph! What an inspiration

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almost 5 years ago

im doing a report on her

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almost 6 years ago

wilma is like the best she is the beat role model and teaches alot

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about 7 years ago

I cant believe so many people care about Wilma Rudolph! I makes me feel very happy that so many people care!

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over 2 years ago

she is such a role model i read all her books and i am doing a report on her and she is a amazing

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almost 5 years ago

umm. wll wilma seens like wonderful woman i did get to meet you or see you on tv but ya i miss you