Trailblazers on the track

The Brooklyn Paper

In the 1940s, a time when black girls were often not even permitted to compete in high school sports, twin sisters Martha Benton DeSaussure and Mary DeSaussure Sobers broke barriers and opened the door for young African-American women and other minority youngsters to compete in sanctioned sports.

In February 1945, Sobers, then Mary DeSaussure, made history by becoming the first black female to run in a sanctioned track meet, the Olympic Carnival, sponsored by the New York City Department of Parks. She ran in galoshes! DeSaussure Sobers won her first PAL race at the 13th Regiment Armory Regional track meet.

DeSaussure and Sobers, both excellent athletes, were members of the first integrated Amateur Athletic Union PAL track team. DeSaussure has received a citation from the Brooklyn Borough President’s office. These remarkable sisters also organized the first all-girl track team for the 79th precinct Police Athletic League. Their hard run towards equality in New York City high school athletics was chronicled in a book entitled “Running Against the Wind.”

For serving as inspirational leaders by using their athletic ability to break down racial and gender barriers, the New York City Hall of Fame inducted DeSaussure and Sobers into its first class of honorees.

Their photo and a brief bio are on the nychalloffame.org website along with the other inductees. The purpose of the NYC Hall of Fame is to honor remarkable New Yorkers who have contributed to the betterment of our City and will, in turn, serve as role models for our children.

Inductees for the 12 categories the Hall honors are selected from nominations submitted at www.nychalloffame.org. All New Yorkers are welcome to submit nominations via this website.


Reader Feedback

Cynthia Donaldson from Melbourne Florida says:
Thank you Mary Sobers for breaking ground for me as a young teenager in track and field. You had patience and stamina to teach me that life is a contest and everyday we are to prepare to win this race. Thank you so much and God bless you and family Mary sobers. This is a well deserved honor.
May 24, 2012, 9:02 am

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