Althea Gibson


Tribune News Service

HISTORY MAKER. Gibson’s achievements went on to inspire many other black athletes as well as women in the sport. She was later inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971. She also went on to write an autobiography, titled “I Always Wanted to Be Someone.”

Althea Gibson was born in South Carolina in 1927. Her family later relocated to Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City. Her family faced many hardships, struggling to make ends meet. Gibson also lacked focus in school, getting bad grades and skipping classes. Instead, she started to delve into sports and picked up a tennis racket.
During this time, tennis was an extremely segregated sport. African Americans were not allowed to mingle with the white professionals or compete in the same tournaments that they did. In fact,Gibson had to wait until the tennis courts closed and play in the dark to develop her skills.
Gibson’s incredible talent paved the way for her to win a tournament sponsored by the American Tennis Association, an African American organization that tried to offer opportunities to black players.
Her talent caught the eyes of the rest of the tennis world, and she was allowed to play against white players in her first Grand Slam, the French Open. After winning the tournament, Gibson became the first person of color to win a Grand Slam in the history of the sport.
Gibson paved the way for African Americans in tennis, inspiring the likes of Serena and Venus Williams. After retiring in 1958, Gibson went on to play golf and become the first black player to compete on the women’s professional tour and break even more barriers.