“I don’t want to be put on a pedestal. I just want to be reasonably successful and live a normal life with all the conveniences to make it so.”
The name Althea Gibson will forever be synonymous with pioneer, trailblazer and icon! Black tennis history will not be complete without this black queen!
American tennis player and professional golfer Althea Neale Gibson was one of the first Black athletes to cross the color line of international tennis. Although she didn’t get her due recognition while alive, efforts have since been made to rectify that gross mistake.
Born 25 August 1927 in Clarendon County, South Carolina, United States the daughter of sharecroppers, the famed sport star battled significant hardship during childhood, her love for sports helped her through tough times and even while doing what she loved best, she encountered racism, discrimination severally.
Way back, black players didn’t have the luxury to compete in the US National Championships, but it all changed in 1950 many thanks to reigning national champion regarded as a prominent world-class athlete Alice Marble’s bold magazine article, outrightly challenging the USTA’s stance. The call was finally heed and long-awaited doors were finally open, leading to major wins like the Gram Slam
Proving she was here not just to make a statement but stay, Althea Gibson would later make history as 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
In 1956, she became the first African American to win a Grand Slam title (the French Championships).
Following her retirement, in 1971, Gibson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Gibson never left the sports world and continued serving, in 1975, she served 10 years as commissioner of athletics for New Jersey State. She was also a member of the governor’s council on physical fitness.
On September 28, 2003, Gibson, aged 76 died of respiratory failure in East Orange, New Jersey.