Lucy Diggs Slowe
Lucy Diggs Slowe entered in the American Tennis Association’s first national tournament in 1917. She won the tournament title, becoming the first African American women to win a major sports title. Slowe was also a 17-time tennis champion. She attended Howard University and created the first junior high school in the Washington D.C. school system.
Harlem, New York was the first place where Althea Gibson learned how to play paddle tennis. In 1943, she won the New York State Negro Girls Singles title. Gibson became the first African American to play in Wimbledon in 1950. Later that decade, Gibson earned back-to-back singles championship titles in Wimbledon. She also won the U.S. Open Women’s Singles title.
As a child, Wilma Rudolph survived scarlet fever, polio, and the disability of being able to only use one leg. As a high schooler, she broke the girls state basketball record in Tennessee by earning 49 points in one game. Rudolph attended Tennessee State University and set the world record for the 200-meter dash. After winning three gold medals at the Olympics, Rudolph earned the name the “World’s Fastest Woman.” Associated Press named her the U.S. Female Athlete of the Year in 1960.
During her teenaged years, Jacqueline (Jackie) Joyner-Kersee won the National Junior Pentathlon championships for four consecutive years. The St. Louis, Illinois native earned two gold medals at the 1988 Olympic Games. In the early 1980’s, Joyner-Kersee was a member of the UCLA Bruins track and field team and won two NCAA heptathlon titles. She also earned a bronze medal for the long jump during both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.