top of page


Ever wonder who invented roller-skating? Or how it came to be so revered within black culture? 


Watch "Once Upon A Roller-Skate" to see how roller-skating and roller-rinks intersects history over 200 years in this eleven-minute poetic narrative that ties together the evolution of black culture from a fresh perspective. 

Black Culture & Roller-Skating:
A Historical Timeline

During the 1940s and 1950s, African-Americans picketed, protested and staged sit-ins to fight for the right to roller-skate in rinks.

Throughout the 1960s, roller-skating rinks remained SEGREGATED and many did not permit African-Americans entry or only allowed them to skate one night a week during "Soul Night", "Martin Luther King Night" or "Adult Night".

According to Dr. Victoria Wolcott, author of "Race, Riots & Roller Coasters", the three hardest public spaces to desegregate during the Civil Rights era were: public pools, amusement parks and roller-skating rinks.

In 1955, The Rollercade in Detroit opened and became the first African-American owned roller-skate rink in America, allowing African-Americans to skate every night of the week.

The segregation that forbade Euro-Americans from skating with African-Americans, had an unintended benefit: the separation permitted African-Americans to skate to their own music, develop their own styles and experience the joys of skating in unique ways that led to skating techniques being still being popularized today.

During the 1980s, roller rinks in Los Angeles were declared neutral territory by rival gangs, the Bloods and the Crips. Skating rinks were safe spaces despite the violence that was occuring between the two groups.

Roller-skating rinks played a key role in the development of rap music and culture. During the 1980s and 1990s, emerging rap artists experienced discrimination in securing performance venues. The roller-skating rinks were some of the first spaces for rap artists like N.W.A, Queen Latifah and Salt-N-Pepa to perform in front of live audiences.

In 2018, Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler co-directed a documentary called "United Skates" which follows African-American skaters from different parts of the nation, and shows their experiences with racism, excessive policing, denial of access and closures of roller-rinks---and the impact on them and their families.

Over the last 30 years, massive closures of roller-rinks, particularly in African-American communities, have pushed the sport and artform underground.  But in 2020, during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a huge revival of roller-skating began----visibly noticed and credited on social media platforms such as, Tik-Tok and Instagram.


This roller-renaissance of today, reflecting Euro-Americans as the epicenter, has revived racist practices that have led to more exclusion, discrimination and erosion of African-Americans and their contributions to roller-skating. 

Despite the negativity of white supremacy, which is at the heart of these problems over equity, accessibility and inclusion, roller-skating continues to be a source of freedom, joy, harmony, creative expression, and stress-management for African-Americans and people from all heritages.

bottom of page