Althea Gibson was an African American sportswoman and tennis player, and the first black player to cross the color line of international tennis. She won 11 Grand Slam titles
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Althea Gibson was an African American athlete and professional tennis player. She was the first black player to compete on the Women’s Tennis Association tour and the first black woman to win a Grand Slam title. She also won 11 straight matches at the French Open.
Born in South Carolina
Althea Gibson (August 25, 1927 – September 28, 2003) was an American sportswoman and professional tennis player, and the first black athlete to cross the color line of international tennis. In 1956, she became the first person of color and the first woman from the United States to win a Grand Slam title (the French Open). The following year, she won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, becoming the first person to win all three titles in a single year. She retired from competitive tennis after winning seven major championships and was inducted into various halls of fame.
One of six children
Born in Silver, South Carolina, Althea was one of six children. Her parents both worked long hours in the cotton fields. At an early age, Althea began to play sports with her brother and sister. Baseball was her favorite game, but she also played football and basketball. When she was ten years old, she joined the local boys’ baseball team. She played so well that soon she was playing on an all-girls’ team.
Althea Gibson’s Sports
Althea Gibson was an incredible athlete, playing two sports at a high level. She was the first African American to compete in tennis at Wimbledon and the US Open. She was also a professional golfer.
First African American to play in U.S. Lawn Tennis Association
In 1950, Althea became the first African American to play in the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association (now the United States Tennis Association). That same year, she won the first of 10 consecutive doubles titles at the American Tennis Association’s national championship for black players.
Won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1957 and 1958
Althea Gibson (August 25, 1927 – September 28, 2003) was an American sportswoman and singer. Gibson was the first black athlete to cross the color line of international tennis. In 1957, she became the first person of color to win a Grand Slam title (the French Open). The following year, she won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, becoming the first African American to do so. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1971.
Gibson also excelled at golf, winning 11 championship titles in 1956, 1957 and 1958. She is one of only four athletes to have won titles in both tennis and golf.
Althea Gibson was the first African American to cross many racial barriers in the world of sports. She became the first black player to compete in international tennis and the first to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Gibson was an actress and singer
Althea Gibson (August 25, 1927 – September 28, 2003) was an American tennis player and professional golfer, and the first African American to cross the color line of international tennis. In 1957, she became the first person of color to win a Grand Slam title (the French Open), and the first black woman to be ranked in the world top ten.
Gibson is often referred to as “the Jackie Robinson of tennis” because her success preceded and laid the groundwork for later African American players such as Arthur Ashe and Serena Williams. For this reason, she is considered one of the most important figures in tennis history.
Born into a poor family in South Carolina, Gibson moved to New York City at the age of fourteen to live with relatives who could better support her athletic career. After a successful run in local amateur tournaments, she turned professional in 1950 and joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). She played on the tour for several years but struggled with poor health and finances, causing her to retire from golf in 1956.
That same year, Gibson began training for a possible return to tennis. She entered several tournaments as an unseeded wildcard entry and quickly rose through the ranks; by 1957 she was ranked No. 6 in the world. She won her first Grand Slam title at that year’s French Open; two weeks later, she became the first black woman to compete at Wimbledon. She reached the semifinals at both Wimbledon and the U.S. National Championships (now known as the U.S. Open) that year, losing both matches in straight sets to eventual champions Maria Bueno and Althea Burton respectively. Gibson continued to play professionally until 1958 when she retired from competitive tennis due to chronic ankle injuries
Authored her autobiography, “I Always Wanted to Be Somebody”
In 1957, Althea authored her autobiography entitled, “I Always Wanted to Be Somebody.” The book detailed her struggles as a African American woman in both the sport of tennis and society in general. Despite the odds, she became one of the most successful athletes in history.