Lucy Diggs Slowe

Lucy Diggs Slowe (July 4, 1885 October 21, 1937) was the first black woman to serve as Dean of Women at any American university and the first Dean of Women at Howard University. She was one of the original sixteen founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the first sorority founded by African-American women. She was one of the nine original founders of the sorority in 1908 at Howard University.

Lucy Diggs Slowe
BornJuly 4, 1885[1]
DiedOctober 21, 1937 (aged 52)[1]
Occupationeducator, college dean, and tennis champion, founder of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated;
Partner(s)Mary P. Burrill[2]
Parent(s)Henry Slowe and Fannie Porter[1]

In 1922, Slowe was appointed the first Dean of Women at Howard University. She continued in that role at Howard for 15 years until her death. In addition, Slowe created and led two professional associations to support college administrators.

Slowe was also a tennis champion, winning the national title of the American Tennis Association's first tournament in 1917, the first African-American woman to win a major sports title.

Early life

Lucy Diggs Slowe was born in Berryville, Virginia to Henry Slowe and Fannie Porter Slowe. Her father was a hotel operator. After both her parents died when Lucy was young, she was raised by her aunt Martha Price in Lexington, Virginia. At thirteen, Lucy and her family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she attended the Baltimore Colored School. She graduated second in her class in 1904 from the Baltimore Colored High School.[3][4]

Slowe was the first person from her school to attend Howard University,[3][4] the top historically black college in the nation, at a time when only 1/3 of 1% of African Americans and 5% of whites of eligible age attended any college.[5]

Lucy Diggs Slowe was one of the nine original founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at Howard University. She was instrumental in drafting the sorority's constitution.[1] She also served as the chapter's first president.[6]

Educational career

After graduation in 1908, Slowe returned to Baltimore to teach English in high school. During the summers, she started studying at Columbia University in New York, where she earned her Masters of Arts degree in 1915.[6][8]

After earning her M.A. she returned to Washington, DC to teach.[6] Because the District was run as part of the Federal government, African-American teachers in the public schools were part of the civil service and paid on the same scale as European Americans. The system attracted outstanding teachers, especially for Dunbar High School, the academic high school for African Americans.[9] In 1919, the District of Columbia asked Lucy Slowe to create the first junior high school in its system for blacks and then appointed her as principal. She led the school until 1922, creating the first integrated in-service training for junior high school teachers in the District.

In 1917, Slowe won the American Tennis Association's first tournament. She was the first African-American woman to win a major sports title.[10]

In 1922, Howard University selected Lucy Slowe as its first Dean of Women. Slowe was the first African-American female to serve in that position at any university in the United States.[8] Slowe continued to serve as a college administrator at Howard for the rest of her career, another 15 years until her death.

To pool resources, share knowledge, and build collaboration, Slowe founded both the National Association of College Women, which she led for several years as first president, and the Association of Advisors to Women in Colored Schools.[3][8] She served as College Dean at Howard University until her death on October 21, 1937.[3][11] Slowe is buried in the Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.


  • In 1942 the United State government built a dormitory to house African-American female government workers, as housing in the city was extremely crowded because of new workers for the war effort. After World War II, the government transferred the building to Howard University for use as a dormitory. Named as Lucy Diggs Slowe Hall in her honor, it opened in 1943.[12]

Located at 1919 Third Street, NW, the hall today is operated by Howard as a co-ed residence.[13]

On April 14, 2015, the First Street Tunnel project named its Tunnel Boring Machine, "Lucy," in honor of Lucy Diggs Slowe.

In 2017 the Virginia Department of Historic Resources erected a historic marker dedicated to Slowe in her hometown of Berryville.[15]


  1. McNealey, Earnestine G. (2006). Pearls of Service: The Legacy of America’s First Black Sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. Chicago: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. p. 43.
  2. "Slowe, Lucy Diggs (1885–1937)". 2002. Retrieved March 10, 2018. During the last 15 years of Slowe's life, Mary Burrill , a recognized Washington, D.C., public school teacher and playwright, was her partner and housemate.
  3. "Lucy Diggs Slowe". Theta Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Archived from the original on 2008-01-01. Retrieved 2007-12-04.
  4. Perkins, Linda M. "Lucy Diggs Slowe: Champion of the Self-Determination of African-American Women in Higher Education." The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 81, No. 1/4, Vindicating the Race: Contributions to African-American Intellectual History. (Winter - Autumn, 1996), pp. 89-104.
  5. James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1988, p.245
  6. "Alpha Kappa Alpha Centennial: Founders" (PDF). Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. April 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-15.
  7. "About Slowe Hall". Louis Justement, architect. Lucy Diggs Slowe Residence Hall, 3rd and T St. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
  8. "The History of Jim Crow". New York Life. Archived from the original on 2002-06-29. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
  9. Thomas Sowell, "The Education of Minority Children", Retrieved 12 December 2007
  10. Cahn, Susan K.; Jean J. O'Reilly (2007). Women and Sports in the United States: A Documentary Reader. Boston: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1-55553-671-9.
  11. "Dean Lucy D. Slowe Passes Away Following Illness of Three Months". The Hilltop. October 27, 1937. p. 1. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  12. "Lucy Diggs Slowe Residence". Cultural Tourism D.C. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
  13. "Lucy Diggs Slowe Hall". Howard University. Archived from the original on 2007-11-20. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
  14. "International Tennis Hall of Fame to Present Breaking the Barriers Exhibit". United States Tennis Association. 2007-08-25. Archived from the original on 2007-10-20. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
  15. "Lucy Diggs Slowe Historical Marker". Retrieved 29 January 2018.

Further reading

  • Carroll L.L. Miller, Anne S. Pruitt-Logan. Faithful to the Task at Hand: The Life of Lucy Diggs Slowe. SUNY Press, 2012.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.