African American Olympians
Finish of the 200 meter hurdle race at the 1904 Olympics. H.L. Hillman, N.Y. Athletic Club, first; George Poage, Milwaukee Athletic Club, third. Courtesy of the Missouri History Museum.
The first African Americans to participate in an actual event were Clevelander Joseph Stadler and University of Wisconsin graduate George Poage, who competed in the third Olympic Games in St. Louis in 1904. Still in their infancy, the Games were considered something of a sideshow to the much more glamorous World's Fair, to which the athletic contest had been forcefully attached. As with the previous two Olympics, contestants competed as representatives of athletic clubs, not countries, and competition was plagued by disorganization and chaos (an American marathoner, Fred Lorz, was disqualified for riding in a car). Nevertheless, the Olympics still represented a major public event, and African American leaders urged Poage to boycott the event once it was revealed that facilities would be segregated. He resisted, and won the bronze medal in the 200- and 400-meter hurdles. Stadler medaled sometime after Poage, winning the silver in the standing high jump, but little is known of his life.