Black History Month provides us all a grand opportunity to revisit history and acknowledge the people that overcame our preconceived ideas of what was possible or likely in our sport. Regarding American fencing’s athletes of color, there are many heroes in our history that surely deserve reflective attention. But….since this IS WFencing, let’s dedicate some time just to the ladies!
Here are 6 amazing Black, female fencing phenomena in US fencing history, that you absolutely need to know about:
1. Ruth White - Ruth White has been called “The First of the Firsts.”
First Black athlete to win a US National Fencing title in any weapon (Foil 1969).
She was the first Black athlete to win the US National Women’s Foil individual title.
She was also the youngest fencer to win the US National Women’s Foil individual title up to that time, (17 years old).
First Black athlete to win the U19 National Championship (foil).
First Black athlete selected for a World Championship team (1969).
Youngest athlete ever selected for the US team.
USA Fencing published a lovely article about Ruth this month, that you should definitely take a look at.
“I was so lucky to find fencing. I lived in a world that was wired for discrimination. Not just from white people, Black people too. White people called me the N word from the first day my parents marched me off to school to when I left the all white school in 4th grade and went to an all Black school. In the Black school they called me a mutt and many times a few girls would try to give me a beat down. IT turns out that I was a really good fighter so that didn’t go on for very long. But I carried an emotional burden, a scar, that shaped the way I saw the world and reacted to people. When I entered the fencing salon in Baltimore that was the first time in my life that race wasn’t an issue. How hard you tried was the issue. I began to thrive. I am forever grateful to all my fencing friends. They never made me feel I was anything other than welcome. This changed my life. It allowed me to move forward, pushing the scars to the side and position my life for loving and caring for all people.”
West Coast Fencing Archive has a great article about Ruth.
2. Sharon Monplaisir - a true groundbreaker and prototype for Brooklyn athletes coming after her. She even has a children’s book about her. In The Sword of a Champion, (by Doreen Greenberg, Michael Greenberg, and