Althea Gibson

Birth Name
Althea Gibson
Date of Birth
25 August 1927
Birth Town
Clarendon County, South Carolina, United States of America

The first African American to compete in national and international tennis tournaments. Gibson is a worldwide recognised athlete because she broke the usual custom of racial segregation in tennis as an athlete, she was also good at playing basketball, bowling and boxing.

National Inheritance

Althea Gibson developed her love for sport an early age. She loved playing basketball and other sports but she was very good at playing tennis. Gibson was born into a family that struggled to make ends means and lived on public assistance. She struggled all through her days in school and usually skipped school to play table tennis. Her dedication and commitment soon gained her a local table tennis champion title. This recognition paved ways for her and she was eventually noticed by musician Buddy Walker who invited her to play tennis on local courts.

After playing in several local courts and winning local tournaments, Althea Gibson was then introduced to the Harlem River Tennis Courts in 1941. One of the local tournament she won was sponsored by the American Tennis Association(ATA).

ATA was established to promote and sponsor African Americans to play in big tournaments. Gibson picked up two ATA titles in 1944 and 1945. The year 1946 was not a favorable one for Gibson because she lost the title for that year, but in 1947 to 1956, she won 10 straight championships.

The ATA tournaments she won, paved the way for her to attend Florida A&M University on a sports scholarship. It was a hard time for her, but she struggled and scaled through and graduated in 1953. At a point, she thought about joining the U.S Army because she was frustrated with the fact that there was segregation in the sports world.

In 1950, a former tennis No1 player, Alice Marble wrote a piece in the American Lawn Tennis magazine where she backlashed the American Lawn Tennis for its segregation against talented black Tennis players like Gibson. Marble’s article brought about a breakthrough and in 1951 Gibson became the first black player to compete in Wimbledon and by 1952 she was among the Top 10 tennis players in the United States. By year 1953 she had climbed higher to No 7 and this made her a well-known figure in the tennis world.

Gibson soon became a top United States tennis player and by 1955, her games were sponsored by the United States Lawn Tennis Association. They sent her around the world on a State Department tour that saw her compete in places like India, Pakistan, and Burma.

Gibson was destined for greatness and this was seen when she won the French Open by 1956 and by 1957, She won both the women’s singles and doubles at Wimbledon.

Before she became a professional player in 1959, Gibson had won 56 singles and doubles championships.  As a woman who loves making history, Gibson turned to golf and also became the first black woman to ever compete on a pro tour.

Until her death, Gibson stayed connected to sports and she served the state of New Jersey as its commissioner of athletics for 10 years.

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