In 1974 and over the next 10 years after that, the American Double Dutch League hosted citywide competitions at New York City’s esteemed Lincoln Center. Two New York City police detectives—double Dutch founder David A. Walker and Ulysses Williams—helped to create the competition for purposes bigger than winning golden trophies; it was a space for young women from urban communities to see that their favorite street sport was world-class. This competition allowed black and brown little girls a stage to showcase their unique talents.
Fast-forward 33 years, and we’ve finally seen this competition return to Lincoln Center with more excitement than ever! The Women of Color in the Arts, in association with the National Double Dutch League, presented the two-day event “’Til the Street Lights Come On” on July 29 and 30 through Lincoln Center Out of Doors. It highlighted the black tradition of double Dutch and celebrated the women of color who helped pioneer the sport and set the course for it to become an international phenomenon that influences art and culture. The weekend featured demonstrations, intergenerational jumping, panel discussions, oral history of the sport, a film screening of Pick Up Your Feet, a photo exhibition, a hip-hop concert and, of course, the competition. And let’s be real: Young black women (and men) jumping rope is one of the most joyous and infectious things you could watch.
The founding director of WOCA explained the history of double Dutch and how it’s rooted in blackness to The Root. Walker said that Dutch settlers brought the game to New Amsterdam (which is now New York City). The game caught on like wildfire, and it became a favorite for kids to play while singing rhymes.
By the 1970s, Walker and his partner, Williams, had made this street game into a sport, and on Feb. 14, 1974, the first double Dutch tournament was held with nearly 600 fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students participating. Now that this competition has returned, there’s a whole new generation of kids who not only get to play the sport but also get to learn about its rich history and impact on American culture. Check out the video above of this year’s double Dutch competition to see how the sport has evolved and continues to grow!