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March 22, 1966
Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

March 22, 1966

On March 22, 1966, the Philadelphia Tribune noted the success of the fencing team at Ben Franklin High School. The high school is located north of Center City Philadelphia, and in the 1960s the school’s enrollment was 95 percent African American and 5 percent Puerto Rican. I researched  Ben Franklin High School for my first book, but I had no idea that the school fielded a successful fencing team or that Philadelphia had a public school fencing league. This brief news item features a picture of Ken Presley, who won the Public League Epee championship. Ben Franklin High was an all-boys school (neighboring William Penn High School, was an all-girls public school), and Franklin's sports team nickname was the Poor Richards.

After finding this article, I wanted to learn more about the history of black fencers. One of the people I learned about is Ruth White, who as a high school student in 1969, was the first African American to win a national championship. White went on to compete in the 1972 Olympics and was inducted into the U.S. Fencing Hall of Fame