Her story: Shirley Marshall-Lee

Born an athlete, Shirley Marshall-Lee earned a place in history when she became the first black female diver in 1965.

Beginning at a young age, Marshall-Lee had a love for the water.  Once a week during the summers a bus would pick up the neighborhood kids in Alexandria, Virginia, and take them to the Blacks-only pools in Washington, DC. She became a lifeguard at age 16 when Alexandria opened up their first community pool for African-Americans in 1952.

In 1965 Marshall-Lee met Dr. Jose Jones, a founding member of the Underwater Adventure Seekers, the first African-American scuba diving club founded 1959. She took diving lessons with Dr. Jones, and earned her basic diving certification that year. This made her the first certified Black female diver and the first female member of the Underwater Adventure Seekers.

Marshall-Lee’s love of diving has taken her all over the world including places like Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Bermuda, Curaçao, Belize, and Haiti just to name a few. She has logged more than 1000 dives over the years and has been recognized by PADI for this amazing milestone. She has a very impressive list of accolades and awards that she has earned over the years, including induction to the National Association of Black Scuba Divers Hall of Fame in 2009.

Shirley Marshall-Lee has trained and mentored many divers over the years. She is an inspiration and a role model for girls and women who follow her lead into the world of scuba diving.

Links for Learning:

Underwater Adventure Seekers


International Legends of Diving

About The Author


Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.

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