Small format, red leather, oblong (6” x 2.5”) Autograph Book with multicolor pages. “Autographs. Souvenir of Providence, R.I.” embossed on front and belonging to Mabel Walker, the nineteen-year-old African American woman from the Tuskegee Institute who won first place in the 100 Meters in the 1948 Women’s Olympic Trials for Track & Field that took place on July 12, 1948 in Providence (she did not medal at the London Olympics). Walker seems to have purchased the album in Providence to be signed and/or inscribed by other athletes. Fifteen signatures/inscriptions on separate pages, (with 72 pp. following blank), all on rectos of the first fifteen pages, includingAfrican-American track and field competitors Mae Faggs, the first U.S. woman to be selected for 3 successive Olympic Games in track and field who would go on to win Gold and Bronze in the 4x100m relay in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, respectively (Hymans, History of Olympic Trials, p. 114); Lillian Young (Long Jump and 100m); and Bernice Robinson (placed first in 80 Meter hurdles and second in high jump). Walker, Faggs, Young, and Robinson were four of the nine African-American women to make the 1948 Olympic Track and Field Team (out of a total of twelve). Other signees who competed in the Providence Olympic trials include Jean Walraven, Jeanette Jones McKay, Gwendolyn Taylor, Nancy McClurken, Eleanor and Muriel Milheiser, Alice Gorman, Pauline Ruppeldt, Bessie Barfield, and Sara Jones.
The 1948 Olympics were the first summer Olympics after World War II (1940 and 1944 were cancelled). The Olympic Trials in Providence were not without their controversies—only one day was allowed (men were given multiple days), with some athletes competing in multiple events. Furthermore, after the return from London, the white female shot putter and discus thrower Frances Kaszubski wrote a letter to the Olympics Committee alleging poor treatment of the female track and field athletes, calling particular attention to how the youngest athlete, sixteen-year-old Mae Faggs, was treated by Coach Catherine Meyer.
A historically significant autograph book belonging to a young African American Olympian, from one consequential day at the 1948 Olympic Track and Field Trials in Providence, RI. Item #388