Champion Althea Gibson broke the color barrier in tennis
Althea Gibson was the first black person to play at the US Open. Now — nearly 70 years later — the 11-time Grand Slam champion has her own statue in Flushing Meadows. 🎾
Gibson had a jam-packed eight-year career
Tennis champion Althea Gibson broke the color barrier in the sport. She was born in 1927 and grew up in Harlem. Years later, she graduated with good grades, pledged AKA sorority, held leadership positions in student organizations and even served as chairperson of the student disciplinary committee. Allen and Baldwin tried to give Gibson an honorarium for speaking, but she presented the check to the physical education department.
In 1950, amid widespread segregation, she made history becoming the first black person to compete in the U.S. National Championships — now known as the U.S. Open. In 1951, she became the first black tennis player to compete at Wimbledon. 5 years later, she won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open. In 1957, she became the first black winner to compete at Wimbledon. She was voted Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in 1957 and 1958. Taking the title, the following year, no other black player would win Wimbledon until Arthur Ash took the men’s singles in 1975.
In 1958, she retired from tennis, as it was not a paying sport for women. She discussed this in an interview with William Miles. She appeared in a stunning 19 major finals in all, she won 11 Grand Slams. She died in 2003 at 76, leaving a major legacy. On August 28, 2019, she was just honored with a sculpture at the U.S. Open. Gibson changed the face and color of women’s tennis. Legendary tennis great Billie Jean King called her "the Jackie Robinson of tennis." You can see her legacy every time the Williams sisters are on television, and the many women tennis players of color. There is a statue of Gibson In Newark, New Jersey, and a sculpture of her in Flushing, New York.
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