Lucy Diggs Slowe (July 4, 1885 – October 21, 1937) 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. Her legacy of Alpha Kappa Alpha has continued to generate social capital for over 100 years. Transcending the era’s limits, Lucy Slowe was a woman of many “firsts”.
In 1922, Slowe was appointed the first Dean of Women at Howard University. She continued as a college administrator at Howard for 15 years, service ended by her death. In addition, Slowe created and led two professional associations to support college administrators. In her leadership as an educator and college administrator, Slowe created important social capital.
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.
Lucy Diggs Slowe demonstrated in her work as an educator, tennis champion, college administrator and civic organizer how African American sororities supported women “to create spheres of influence, authority and power within institutions that traditionally have allowed African Americans and women little formal authority and real power.”
After graduation, 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.
Slowe continued working as an educator in Baltimore for several years, then she returned to Washington, DC to teach. Because the District was run as part of the Federal government, African American teachers in the public schools were paid on the same scale as whites. The system attracted outstanding teachers, especially for Dunbar High School, the academic high school for African Americans.
In 1917, Slowe won the American Tennis Association’s first tournament. She was the first African-American woman to win a major sports title. Two years later, in 1919, the District of Columbia asked Lucy Slowe to create the first junior high school in its system and then appointed her principal. She led the school until 1922.
That year, in 1922, Howard University selected Lucy Slowe as the first College Dean of Women. Slowe was the first African-American female to serve in that position. Slowe continued to serve as a college administrator at Howard for the rest of her career, another 15 years.
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. She served as College Dean at Howard University until her death on October 21, 1937.