Digital North Carolina Blog

Digital North Carolina Blog

This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from institutions across North Carolina.

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Scrapbooks from Irwin Holmes — NC State’s First African American Athlete

Irwin Holmes ScrapbookScrapbooks and photographs from the Durham County Library documenting the early life and career of college tennis player, Irwin Holmes, are now available at digitalnc.org. Born in Reidsville, N.C., Holmes enrolled at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. in 1956. He graduated with a degree in engineering in 1960 and went on to work in the technology sector. The scrapbooks were put together by Holmes’ mother and include childhood photographs and memorabilia from Holmes’ tennis career.

Holmes made history as the first African American to earn an undergraduate degree from North Carolina State University as well as being the first African American athlete at the University. He excelled at tennis and joined the Wolfpack tennis team in 1958, eventually becoming co-captain. The tennis team embraced Holmes in a time when some states still prohibited African American athletes from competing with white athletes. John Kenfield, the NCSU tennis coach, would not take his team to schools that would not allow Holmes to play. Other southern colleges soon began to recruit and include more African American athletes.


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