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Going for the Gold: African Americans and the 1984 Olympic Summer Games

Christina Rice, Senior Librarian, Photo Collection,
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On January 25, 2017, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to give its final approval to the city’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. If Los Angeles is selected as the host of the XXXIII Olympiad, it would join London as only the second city to host the Summer Games three times, having previously done so in 1932 and famously, in 1984.

The 1984 Summer Games were one of the city's crowning achievements. During two weeks in late July/early August of that year, the United States took home 174 medals, including 83 gold. Photographers from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner newspaper were on hand to capture much of the competition, and those images now permanently reside in the Los Angeles Public Library's photo collection. In honor of African American History Month, here is a brief look at some of the black participants who helped make the 1984 Summer Olympic Games a memorable success. 

Gina Hemphill, granddaughter of famed Olympian Jesse Owens, carries the torch into the Coliseum for the opening ceremonies on July 28, 1984. (Anne Knudsen/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00053768)

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Rafer Johnson, winner of the 1960 decathlon gold medal, lights the Olympic flame during the opening ceremonies on July 28, 1984. (Paul Chinn/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00055835)

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Chandra Cheeseborough is shown winning the 400 meter at the Olympic Trials. She would go on to win the silver medal in that event at the 1984 Games. (Paul Chinn/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00053870)

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Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Wayman Tisdale and Patrick Ewing of the U.S. men's basketball team are all smiles as they close in on a gold medal. (James Ruebsmen/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00054661)

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Michael Jordan, then a student at the University of North Carolina, was introduced to the world during the 1984 Olympic Games. (James Ruebsmen/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00049041)

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Edwin Moses, winner of the gold medal for the 400 meter hurdles, waves to the crowd following a race. (Paul Chinn/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00050971)

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Cheryl Miller cheers from the bench during a U.S. vs Canada game. She would help lead the U.S. women's basketball team to a gold medal in 1984. (James Ruebsmen/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00052593)

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Evander Holyfield faces off against Ismail Khalil Salman of Iraq. Days later, Holyfield would be disqualified over a controversial call by the referee in a semi-finals match, but would still earn a bronze medal. (James Ruebsmen/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00049037)

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Featherweight Meldrick Taylor faces off against Francisco Camacho of Mexico. Taylor would go on to win the gold. (James Ruebsmen/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00053782)

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After winning the 100 meter gold medal, Evelyn Ashford (right), hugs teammate Jeanette Bolden. (Paul Chinn/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00049040)

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Carl Lewis raises his arms in victory as he wins a gold medal for the 200 meter. Lewis would win four gold medals at the 1984 Summer Games, and nine gold medals total over during his career. (Paul Chinn/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00098665)

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Mayor Tom Bradley stands with 300 torchbearers on the steps of City Hall. Bradley had campaigned tirelessly to have the Games held in Los Angeles despite fierce opposition from both the City Council and residents. (Mike Mullen/Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection, order #00034894)


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