Black Tennis History Timeline 1874-2016

 1874-1900  |
 1901-1930  |
 1931-1960  |
 1961-1975  |

Queen Victoria grants a patent to Major Walter Clopton Wingfield for the game of Sphairistike or Lawn Tennis.

Civil Right Act of 1875 guaranteed equal rights to black Americans in public accommodations and jury duty.


The first tennis tournament in the United States is held in Nahant, Massachusetts.


The first Wimbledon tournament is held at the All England Lawn and Tennis and Croquet Club in London, England.

James Garfield is elected president

United States National Lawn Tennis Association formed.

President Garfield is assassinated.
Tuskegee Institute founded, Booker T. Washington appointed head.
Spelman College, first black college for women, founded.
Segregation of public transportation is upheld when Tennessee enacts a statute that requires separate cars for first-class black passengers.

First US National Lawn Tennis Championship held at the Newport Casino in Newport, Rhode Island. Richard Sears wins the Championship.

Lynchings* 49

It is important to note that we are reporting information about lynchings to provide a realistic context in which we are chronicling the history of blacks in tennis.
*Figures derived from the Tuskegee Institute Archives which kept statistics on reported lynchings from 1882-1968. While approximately one third of the lynching victims were white, only the figures for blacks are reported here. 

Civil Rights Act of 1875 overturned by Supreme Court The court determines that the Federal Government cannot bar corporations or individuals from discriminating on the basis of race.
Lynchings – 53

Grover Cleveland elected president
Lynchings 51

Lynchings – 74

The American Federation of Labor was organized, excluded blacks.
Knights of Labor reaches peak membership of 700,000 with approximately 75,000 African American members.
Slavery abolished in Cuba.
Lynchings – 74 

Blacks banned from Major League Baseball.
Two of America™s first black owned banks open The Savings Bank of the Grand
Fountain United Order of Reformers in Richmond, Virginia and Capital Savings
Bank of Washington, DC.
Lynchings – 70

Benjamin Harrison elected president.
Lynchings 69

Florida becomes the first state to use the poll tax to disenfranchise black voters.

Frederick Douglas is appointed minister to Haiti.
Lynchings 94

Census of 1890, 12% of US population black

Under the Mississippi Plan, literacy and understanding tests were used to disenfranchise black American citizens. South Carolina, Louisiana, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, and Oklahoma later do the same.
Lynchings – 85

Chautauqua Tennis Club in Philadelphia was established in 1890, with other black clubs forming in Baltimore, New York and Washington.
In the South, tennis reputedly had its beginnings on the faculty courts of Tuskegee Institute. One of the first such courts was built in front of the Academic Building. Two additional courts were located near the home of Institute President, Booker T. Washington. Early participants were Warren Logan, Emmet J. Scott, S.E. Courtney, and E.T. Atwell

Under the Mississippi Plan, literacy and “understanding” tests are used to disenfranchise black American citizens. South Carolina, Louisiana, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia and Oklahoma later implement these tests to minimize the number of black voters.


The first French Championships (originally called the Championnat de France) is held at Ile de Puteaux in Paris, France.

161 blacks are lynched during the course of the year.
Grover Cleveland elected president.
National Medical Association is formed in Atlanta by African American physicians because they are barred from the American Medical Association.

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, a black surgeon, performs the first successful operation on a human heart.
Lynchings – 118

The Pullman Company strike caused a national transportation crisis. African American workers were hired as strike breakers.
Lynchings – 134

African American leader and statesman Frederick Douglas dies.  The Atlanta Compromise delivered by Booker T. Washington states that the Negro problem would be solved by a policy of gradualism and accommodation.

Several Baptist organizations combine to form the National Baptist Convention of the USA largest black religious denomination in the US.
Lynchings – 113

In Plessy v. Ferguson the Supreme Court decided that separated but equal facilities satisfy the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees, thereby sanctioning Jim Crow segregation laws.
William McKinley elected president
Lynchings 78

American Negro Academy is established in Washington, DC to encourage African American participation in art, literature and philosophy.

Two of America’s first black-owned insurance companies are established The North Carolina Mutual and Provident Insurance Company and the National Benefit Life Insurance Company of Washington, DC.
Lynchings 123

Start of the Spanish American War
Lynchings – 101

Rev. W.W. Walker organized the first inter-state tournament for blacks in Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson of Lincoln University of Pennsylvania was the first champion.

The African American Council protests lynchings and massacres with a national day of fasting.
Eighty-five black Americans are known to have been lynched in 1899.

The tournament returned to Philadelphia where Rev. Walker defeated Henry Freeman of Washington DC for the championship.The first half of the 20th Century saw monumental change in America.

James Weldon Johnson and brother John Rosamond Johnson compose Lift Every Voice and Sing song is eventually adopted as black national anthem.
Lynchings – 106

Although the tournament was relocated to Washington DC, the Rev. Walker again emerged victorious, beating Charles Cook of Howard University.