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Press Release

New Research Shows Need for HBCU Gymnastics to Address National Sports Equity Issues

By August 10, 2021No Comments

black women in gymnasticsThe Doug Williams Center Releases Study on Black Women in Gymnastics with Research Support from Grambling State Students

August 10, 2021 – Today, The Doug Williams Center’s (DWC) Research & Study Division released its anticipated case study on the history of Black women’s progress through elite gymnastics and what it will take to increase their participation in the future.

“The Doug Williams Center’s Research & Study division helps outline historic context to clarify our present state so that solutions have holistic relevancy,” said Raven Thissel, the Center’s Marketing & PR Director. “It’s not possible to share the story of how we got to Simone Biles without highlighting Dianne Durham nor is it possible to provide a path forward for more young women of color without HBCUs.”


Black Women in American Gymnastics: Continuing the Legacy of Dianne Durham, took shape as DWC leadership partnered with Grambling State University’s Family & Consumer Science Department to engage students in a summer research opportunity in conjunction with their classes.

“Students were centric to this research,” said Terry Matthews, M.Ed., Interim Coordinator of GSU’s Family & Consumer Sciences Department. “They became very passionate about Dianne Durham’s impact on the sport of gymnastics, and we are proud of their contributions to the case study.”

The study considers the segregated beginnings of American gymnastics, the success of the first Black American elite gymnast, and the ripples of impact she had on the sport – paving a path for athletes like Dominique Dawes, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles. While the legal barriers to inclusion for Black gymnasts have undoubtedly decreased, socioeconomic hurdles still stand. DWC’s newest case study examines these and highlights some of the ways to approach overcoming these issues for future generations.

“By adding the complete context of Black women’s accomplishments in gymnastics to the national conversation, we empower their continued progress to benefit all participating institutions,” said DWC Executive Director Brandon A. Logan. “Increasing access to gymnastics for Black women means more representation, more participation, more viewers, and ultimately more revenue into the sport on a national scale.”

How Will the Research Be Used?

In light of Grambling State University’s recent statement on its desire to offer the NCAA’s first gymnastics team at an Historically Black College and University (HBCU), the Center hopes its new research will help inspire investors, institutions, and the families of young gymnasts to rally the cause.

“Considering the current trajectory of Black women’s influence on gymnastics, HBCU competitive teams are an inevitable next step in the sport’s progress,” said Grambling State’s Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics, Dr. Trayvean Scott. “The time to invest in this movement is now.”

GSU’s Family & Consumer Sciences Department and participating researchers were recognized for their contributions by Dr. Scott and The Doug Williams Center at the July 2021 Brown Girls Do Gymnastics Conference hosted at GSU.

“This research uses data to tell the story of how Black and brown women have demonstrated tremendous courage and come out on top,” said Dr. Scott.

To download the case study, visit For media inquiries concerning The Doug Williams Center and research, contact Raven Thissel at

About The Doug Williams Center

Founded in 2020, The Doug Williams Center exists to build an ever-growing network of solutions for diversity and inclusion in collegiate and professional sports. The Center is a learning commons and advancement space for audiences to examine the history of race and politics in American sports and build holistic perspectives on the cultural impact to provide resources for ongoing social progress. With the support of its esteemed Advisory Board and multi-disciplinary academicians, the Center offers thought leadership and practical resources to sports industry entities. A hub for academic of research and development, The Doug Williams Center is an affiliate of Grambling State University.



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