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Althea Gibson

Learn about the life of tennis great Althea Gibson.
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Althea Gibson 1927-
Tennis Player
Birthplace: Silver, SC


Althea was born on a cotton farm in South Carolina; her parents were sharecroppers. A New York Police Athletic League coach who saw Althea playing paddleball in Harlem encouraged her to play tennis. In 1948 she won the first of ten straight national black women's singles championships. While being interviewed by a biographer Althea recalled, "I just found that I had a skill at hitting that ball. And I enjoyed the competition."

In 1957, Gibson became the first African-American woman to not only compete, but to win a Wimbledon singles title. In 1958, Gibson was both a Wimbledon and U.S. National tennis champion. "People thought I was ruthless," Gibson said. "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 the way. I just wanted to play my best."

Althea retired from competition in 1958. In 1971, she was named to the National Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame. After a remarkable career and almost 100 professional titles, including five Grand Slam crowns, Althea took up golf and became the first African American to earn an LPGA card. In 1958, her autobiography I Always Wanted to Be Somebody was published.

Black History Month Return to the Encyclopedia
of Prominent African Americans
.