Black History: Special Delivery!!
Darlene Anderson made history in 1958 when she became the first African American female roller derby professional skater. Anderson was very athletic, playing sports in high school. Her mother stopped her from playing baseball because she felt the sport was too rough. Anderson took up roller derby instead. Her parent’s thought she was taking ice-skating lessons. She didn’t let them know right away it was roller derby; being fearful that they would make her quit. Anderson’s parents were raising her to be a “lady” and she knew they would not approve of her competing in a sport like roller derby.
She had no idea that she would compete professionally in the sport. At that time, roller derby was an extremely popular sport across the U.S. A time trial held at Olympic Auditorium, gave Anderson her “big break”. The time trial launched her career as a professional roller derby skater. Though skeptical at first, Anderson’s parents became her biggest supporters. She rose to fame quickly, unanimously winning, 1958 “rookie of the year” award at age 19 while skating for the Brooklyn Red Devils. She also skated professionally for the Hawaii All Stars, San Francisco Bay Bombers, New York Chiefs, Los Angeles Braves, and many other teams.
Anderson felt she was treated well by her teammates and other professionals within the sport. She would encounter the occasional rowdy fan but feels she was accepted as an equal with other skaters. After concluding her career, she accomplished another “first”, becoming the first African American woman to be a Pari Mutuels Clerk with the Southern California Racing Association. Pari Mutuels is a form of betting at horse tracks.