Long before Venus and Serena Williams came to dominate in the sport of tennis, Margaret and Matilda Peters were pioneers! The two sisters were affectionately known as “Pete” and “Repeat”. Their record as doubles partners was unprecedented from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. They achieved success during a time when whites and blacks were not allowed to compete together. The sisters played in the American Tennis Association (ATA) as teenagers. ATA was created specifically to give blacks a forum to play competitively. It was comprised of a network of Negro Tennis Clubs across the country.
The sisters were born 2 years apart in Washington D.C. They both attended college at Tuskegee University, graduating in 1940 with degrees in physical education. Both would continue their education at New York University, obtaining Masters degrees in physical education. They continued to play tennis both during and after college. Between 1938-1941, they won 14 ATA doubles championships. Matilda Peters also won two singles ATA titles in 1944 and 1946. In the 1946 title match, she defeated the legendary Althea Gibson. Gibson would later go on to become the first African American woman to play competitive tennis against whites in 1950.
During their time as ATA champions, the Peters sisters were well known. However, compared to other successful African American tennis players they have not received much recognition. Matilda died on May 16, 2003. Margaret passed away on November 3, 2004.