The first black Africans to compete in the Olympics

The first black Africans to compete in the Olympics were Tswana tribesmen from South Africa

August 30 1904, two Tswana tribesmen, Len Tau (Len Taunyane) and Yasmani ( Jan Mashiani), they were referred to as LenTau and Yasmani because officials could not pronounce their surnames, became the first black Africans to compete in the modern Olympics when they ran in the Summer Olympics men’s marathon held in St Louis.

They had been in St Louis on a Boer Ear Exbibit in Louisiana Purchase Exposition held alongside games when they decided to enter the marathon at the last minute.

Tau ran barefoot on an insuitable course and over dusty roads, so dusty that it caused many of the athletes to collapse. Tau finished ninth and Mashiani came twelfth. This was a disappointing to Tau as many observers were sure he could have done better if he had not been chased nearly a mile off course by aggressive dogs.

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