Lucy Diggs Slowe was amazing. She was born in 1885 to Henry and Fannie Porter Slowe who ran a hotel in Berryville, Virginia. Unfortunately, she experienced tragedy early in life. Her father died just six months after she was born and then at age five Lucy’s mother died. After the death of her parents, her aunt, Martha Slowe Price, raised Lucy and her 6 siblings, eventually moving to Baltimore.
Lucy Diggs Slowe did not let these tragedies deter her march towards excellence. She attended high school at the Baltimore Colored School and graduated second in her class in 1904. She then attended Howard University where she was a co-founder of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in 1908 and served as the sorority’s first president. She graduated from Howard as valedictorian and then earned her Master of Arts degree at Columbia University in 1915. In 1919, she founded the first junior high school, Shaw Junior High School, in the District of Columbia and served as its founding principal.
In 1922 she was selected as the first College Dean of Women at Howard University. This is notable both because she was the first women to serve as a dean at Howard University. In addition, this was in a time when much of the top leadership of Howard University was not African American; the first African American president of Howard University was Mordecai Wyatt Johnson who was installed in 1926. Over the course of her time as dean, Lucy Diggs Slowe encountered and overcame friction from President Johnson over her support for women.
The above accomplishments are amazing, but in the midst of all of this Lucy Diggs Slowe was a champion tennis player!! In 1917, she won the American Tennis Association’s first tournament and because the first African American woman to win a national sports title. The American Tennis Association was founded for African American tennis players at a time when majority tennis associations did not welcome African Americans. Slowe went on to win 17 championships. She was amazing!!! In the photo below she is shown with her mixed doubles partner Dr. John Wilkerson.
After her death at age 52, Lucy Diggs Slowe Hall was named in her honor as a dormitory on Howard’s campus. On April 14, 2015, the First Street Tunnel project near Howard University in Washington, DC named their tunnel boring machine “Lucy” in honor of Lucy Diggs Slowe.
Lucy Diggs Slowe was amazing!!