Welcome to SLOWE
In our inaugural post, we're focusing on the sporting career of Lucy Diggs Slowe, champion tennis player and our namesake.
Before we launch into what a sporting hero Lucy was, we should mention that tennis was but one strand of her prolific and boundary-breaking career – to say she excelled in academia would be an understatement. Brief highlights reel:
- Named the first College Dean of Women at Howard University in 1922
- One of the original sixteen founders of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the first founded by African American women
- Established the first junior high school for African-American children in Washington, DC
No. Big. Deal. In fact, in Faithful to the Task at Hand, an in-depth biography of Lucy, her tennis-playing accounts for less than ten of the 349 pages. In her 52 years, Lucy Diggs Slowe was busy.
The 17-Time Tennis Champ
Tennis was introduced to the US in 1874, just nine years before Lucy was born, by Mary Ewing Outerbridge, who had purchased tennis equipment in Bermuda and used it to set up the country's first tennis court in Staten Island.
Not much is known about how Lucy started playing tennis–it's presumed that she was introduced through community activities as a kid and was good enough to continue through high school and college. Despite very restricted hours of allowed practice time and there being no gymnasium at Howard University during Lucy's education there, she became regarded as a talented player and was elected as President of the Women's Tennis Club.
Graduating in 1908, it would be another nine years until Lucy won her first tournament. It was a win of many 'firsts', being the American Tennis Association's first tournament, and the first win of a female African-American national champion in any sport.
Lucy continued dominating on the court, winning multiple championships in both singles and doubles events in tournaments from Philadelphia to New York. At the age of 39 Lucy retired from competitive tennis having won seventeen championships in all. Whilst her life on the court isn't so well documented, it's pretty clear that she was a fierce competitor and embodied the qualities of good sportsmanship throughout her life. And what a name.