The net result of 104 years of Black women in tennis: The Slowe serve to Turnbough

After a literal “hot-Lanta” visit to the Sugarcreek Golf & Tennis Center to cheer for our favorite high school tennis competitor, I thought of the similarities and contrasts of days gone by.

It is likely that 15-year-old Allie Turnbough did not understand the significance of her participation in a tennis tourney that highlighted historically black colleges and universities’ interest in her future. As a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, a HBCU that also includes her mother as an alumna, we especially sensed the significance of the day. Her Dad did as well. So did my Mom.

Allie Turnbough, her Mom (my former children’s babysitter) Sondra Bryant Turnbough, and me (in summer dress) and my Mom, Angie Wead, were onlookers to an excellent day of youth tennis. The young tennis players top the photo collage. Not pictured, yet taking pictures was Antoni Turnbough, Allie’s father and Sondra’s husband.

This day was made possible because of the Black tennis pioneers: “Formed in 1916 by a group of African American businessmen, college professors and physicians, the American Tennis Association (ATA) has become the Mecca for blacks – from all walks of life – who yearn to enjoy the camaraderie and competition offered by a sport for youngsters from age 8 to 80.
Since its inception, the ATA, which is the oldest African American sports organization in the United States…”

The ATA is still in play. During a May weekend in the Atlanta suburban community known as South DeKalb County , the ATA produced a spectacular tournament at the beautiful Sugar Creek Golf & Tennis Club. It afforded teenagers like Turnbough the opportunity to compete with some of the best tennis athletes in the metro Atlanta area. HBCU tennis scouts had the best views.

As a genealogist, I reflect on this day and weekend as a pleasing legacy to Black female tennis pioneer Slowe. The difference is that unlike Slowe who was restricted to only competing in Blacks-only tourneys, Turnbough and her friends are able to prove their talents in fully integrated settings.

U.S. Black female tennis pioneer Lucy Diggs Slowe with her racket in hand, circa 1920.

Many of us know of the great Althea Gibson, Olympic tennis champion and HBCU grad (Florida A&M University). Fewer of us know about Slowe.

Lucy Diggs Slowe

Born in Berryville, Virginia on July 4, 1885, Slowe made history as the winner of the first ATA National Women’s Singles Championship in 1917. This victory made her the first African American woman to win a major sports title. On January 15, 1908 Slowe and nine other woman founded the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. This organization has become one of the most influential association of black woman in the world. In 1919, she worked with District of Columba officials to create the first junior high school in the system. Slowe served as principal of this school for three years. In 1922, she became the first Dean of Women at Howard University. In 1923, Slowe became the founder and president of the National Association of College Women. In 1929, she founded the Association of Deans of Women and Advisors to Girls in Negro Schools (NAWDACS). This timeline is worth checking out. All of the Black tennis greats are included in this listing and short stories.

As for Slowe, I love the most profound summary bio of her She was one of the founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. on Howard University’s campus in 1907-08. She is also from the “Divine Nine” family royalty of founders as her cousin, Elder Watston Diggs, was one of the founders of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. in 1911. Her founding of schools and academic achievements are also well described in the bio summary.

Finally, young Turnbough also comes from sports and social activism legacy. Her grandfather, Charles Bryant, uncles and cousins are (grandfather Bryant has passed) proven, top athletes.

Enjoy the game, Allie.

Watch 90+-year old Xi Xi Zeta Charter Member Share History on YouTube

March 16, 2021 marked our grad chapter’s 32nd anniversary. This retro video was recorded in 2019, Lithonia, Georgia.

My Legacy Soror Mom are among XiXiZeta’s founding. Listen, learn and love!

Here’s our history as scribed by Mom, Angie Wead and my Sister-Mom, Mary Martin-Blackmon.




MARCH 16, 1989

Soror Dove  Dr. Genova H. Lawrence saw a need to form a Zeta Phi Beta chapter in the Lithonia, Georgia area, when several women approached her with an interest in  becoming Zetas.  She had also met other graduate Sorors, who wanted to reclaim.  Shen then called a meeting at her home to organize a chapter, after she met for several months with prospective Sorors and graduate Sorors.  Note:  Soror Lawrence attended all Boule’s and met the five founders and three Sigmas (who assisted in the founding of the Sorority).

The Xi Xi Zeta Chapter was organized in 1988 and chartered on March 16, 1989 in Lithonia, Georgia by the Georgia State Director, Soror Bettye H. Shelling (Triumphant).  Chartering Sorors:  Dr Genova Lawrence, Veronica Lawrence-Bacote, Eula Hardiman, Ethel Chapman, Yvonne Mazyck.  Sorors immediately joining the chapter:  Sorors Josephine Cloud (Triumphant), Patricia Felder, Shirley Jefferson, Arlene Hawkins, Ann Kimbrough, and Angeline Wead.

The chapter reached out to the community and started the following programs:

            The African American Cultural History Club at Bruce Street Housing .  Three Sorors – Sorors Lawrence, Felder and Cloud knocked or rang forty doorbells to talk with occupants about the program, including:

  • An Archonian Club.
  • A tutorial program.
  • Chartered the Delta Xi Undergraduate chapter at DeVry of Technology on October 14, 1989.  sig Ann Kimbrough was the Dean of Pledges.  This chapter was later to the Kappa Psi Zeta sorority chapter.
  • Sponsored a Blue Revue Pageant in 1990.  5 scholarships and 15 awards were presented.

Page 2 – Xi Xi Zeta 30th Anniversary

  • A Saddler Club was organized with our youth group on Soror Lawrence’s Nova Glen farm.
  • Provided Thanksgiving Dinner, for several years, to the residents of Bethel A.M.E. Church Towers, assisted by Sigma Brothers – Rev. Joel Miles, Sr.(triumphant), Dr. Rufus Lawrence (triumphant, Brother Bruce Blackmon, and other volunteers.
  • Chapter Sorors have attended and/or contributed to all Georgia State Conferences, Regional Conferences, Boule’s and ZHope projects.
  • Participation/support in the annual Stork’s Nest Blitz, in March for Babies/March of Dimes, Relay for Life, community walks, and other community activities.
  • Representatives-Annual Founder’s Day Sigma/Zeta Brunch Committee

Chapter Basilei (1989 – Present):  Sorors Dr. Genova Lawrence, Dr. Angela Johnson, Angela Garrett (Triumphant), Deborah McClanahan, and Faye Rashid.

The chapter celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a Sisterhood Tea on March 16, 2019 at Soror/Dove Genova Lawrence’s home.  The event is presented on you tube,


Submitted for all record-keeping by Sorors Angeline C. Wead and Mary Martin-Blackmon

Mom (Angie Wead) and me during the 2019 activities and photos.
Soror Mary Martin-Blackmon during a pre-COVID-19 activity with our chapter at her church in Lithonia, GA