- NAME: Althea Gibson
- OCCUPATION: Golfer, Tennis Player
- BIRTH DATE: August 25, 1927
- DEATH DATE: September 28, 2003
- Did You Know?: Althea Gibson became the first African-American tennis player to compete at the U.S. National Championships in 1950, and the first black player to compete at Wimbledon in 1951.
- Did You Know?: As a young girl in Harlem, New York, Althea Gibson was a local table tennis champion. Her skills were eventually noticed by musician Buddy Walker, who invited her to play tennis on local courts.
- Did You Know?: After Althea Gibson won the women's singles and doubles at Wimbledon in 1957, a ticker tape parade was held in her honor when she returned home to New York City.
- Did You Know?: Althea Gibson had won 56 singles and doubles championships by the time she turned pro in 1959.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Silver, South Carolina
- PLACE OF DEATH: East Orange, New Jersey
- Full Name: Althea Neale Gibson
- AKA: Althea Gibson
Best Known For
Althea Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to compete at the U.S. National Championships in 1950, and the first black player to compete at Wimbledon in 1951. She also broke racial barriers in professional golf.
Arthur Ashe - Mini Biography (3:35)
A short biography on Althea Gibson, the first African-American to win a Grand Slam tournament. After retiring, she became the first African-American on the Ladies Professional Golf Association circuit.
Arthur Ashe was the first African-American male to win men's single titles at Wimbledon. Off the court, he became an anti-apartheid activist and brought attention to HIV/AIDs before succumbing to the disease in 1993.
Serena Williams was only 3 years old when she and her sister, Venus, started playing tennis. Since turning pro, she's won countless Grand Slam titles and two Olympic gold medals.
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Althea Gibson was born in South Carolina on August 25, 1927. At an early age, she developed a love of sport. Her great talent was in tennis, but in the 1940s and '50s, most tournaments were closed to African Americans. Gibson kept playing (and winning) until her skills could no longer be denied, and in 1951, she became the first African American to play at Wimbledon. Gibson won the women's singles and doubles at Wimbledon in 1957, and won the U.S. Open in 1958.
"I have never regarded myself as a crusader. I don't consciously beat the drums for any cause, not even the negro in the United States."
"People thought I was ruthless, which I was. I didn't give a darn who was on the other side of the net. I'd knock you down if you got in my way."
Althea Neale Gibson was born on August 25, 1927, in Silver, South Carolina. Gibson blazed a new trail in the sport of tennis, winning some of the sport's biggest titles in the 1950s, and broke racial barriers in professional golf as well.
At a young age, Gibson moved with her family to the Harlem borough of New York City. Gibson's life at this time had its hardships. Her family struggled to make ends meet, living on public assistance for a time, and Gibson struggled in the classroom, often skipping school all together. However, Gibson loved to play sports—especially table tennis—and she soon made a name for herself as a local table tennis champion. Her skills were eventually noticed by musician Buddy Walker, who invited her to play tennis on local courts.
After winning several tournaments hosted by the local recreation department, Gibson was introduced to the Harlem River Tennis Courts in 1941. Incredibly, just a year after picking up a racket for the first time, she won a local tournament sponsored by the American Tennis Association, an African-American organization established to promote and sponsor tournaments for black players. She picked up two more ATA titles in 1944 and 1945. Then, after losing one title in 1946, Gibson won 10 straight championships from 1947 to 1956. Amidst this winning streak, she made history as the first African-American tennis player to compete at both the U.S. National Championships (1950) and Wimbledon (1951).
Gibson's success at those ATA tournaments paved the way for her to attend Florida A&M University on a sports scholarship. She graduated from the school in 1953, but it was a struggle for her to get by. At one point, she even thought of leaving sports all together to join the U.S. Army. A good deal of her frustration had to do with the fact that so much of the tennis world was closed off to her. The white-dominated, white-managed sport was segregated in the United States, as was the world around it.
The breaking point came in 1950, when Alice Mable, a former tennis No. 1 herself, wrote a piece in American Lawn Tennis magazine lambasting her sport for denying a player of Gibson's caliber to compete in the world's best tournaments. Mable's article caught notice, and by 1952—just one year after becoming the first black player to compete at Wimbledon—Gibson was a Top 10 player in the United States. She went on to climb even higher, to No. 7 by 1953.
In 1955, Gibson and her game were sponsored by the United States Lawn Tennis Association, which sent her around the world on a State Department tour that saw her compete in places like India, Pakistan, and Burma.
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