Ora Washington was one of the premiere female athletes of the early 20th century. She excelled in both tennis and basketball, but because of racial discrimination, she was rarely able to compete with white athletes. According to Arthur Ashe, Washington may have been the best female athlete of the 20th century.
Ora Washington was
born in Virginia on January 16, 1899. When
Ora Washington’s sisters passed away she was introduced to tennis at a local
YMCA near her home in Philadelphia. Within only one year, Washington was
a leading player in the national association for black women. After only four years of experience in the sport, Ora
Washington won the ATA’s Women’s singles championship. She held on to that title for a long seven
years from 1929 to 1936 and was a well-known African American woman as well as
an athlete. Many well-known tennis players in her time knew and talked highly
of her talents and looked up to her. Even though she loved tennis Washington
decided to highlight her talents in other sports such as basketball where she
played center for the Germantown Hornets and the Philadelphia Tribunes.
Upon retirement from professional athletics, Ora Washington
coached and offered free tennis lessons at the public courts in her hometown.
She died in 1971.