New York Honours Althea Gibson The First African American To Win Grand Slam Title
Althea Neale Gibson was an American tennis player and professional golfer, and one of the first Black athletes to cross the colour line of international tennis.
In 1956, she became the first African American to win a Grand Slam title. On what would have marked her 95th birthday, August 25, New York renamed a street in her honour to celebrate the day.
Gibson was raised at Malcolm X Boulevard and West 143rd Street intersection, which is now known as Althea Gibson Way.
Katrina Adams, the former president and CEO of the U.S Tennis Association said, “It is important that we keep her name alive, and the next generation needs to know that before Coco, Venus, Serena, Lori, Chanda, Leslie, and Zina, was Althea. Because Althea came first”
Gibson grew up in New York City, where she began playing tennis at an early age under the auspices of the New York Police Athletic League. In 1942 she won her first tournament, which was sponsored by the American Tennis Association (ATA), an organization founded by African American players. In 1947 she captured the ATA’s women’s singles championship, which she would hold for 10 consecutive years.
While attending Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (B.S., 1953) in Tallahassee, she continued to play in tournaments around the country and in 1950 became the first Black tennis player to enter the national grass-court championship tournament at Forest Hills in Queens, New York. The next year she entered the Wimbledon tournament, again as the first Black player ever invited. The tall and lean Gibson soon became noted for her dominating serves and powerful play.
Gibson made history in 1951, Following Alice Marble’s letter, a No. 1 former Tennis player who publicly criticized the sport for denying a player of Gibson’s caliber the opportunity to compete in the biggest tournaments in the world.
According to the Journal of Sports History, Marble, in a letter to American Lawn Tennis, urged Gibson to get a chance to play. She became the first African American player to receive an invitation to Wimbledon. Later, she made history by becoming the first Black player to win Wimbledon, as well as the French and U.S. opens. She was inducted into the Tennis Hall of fame in 1971.
According to NBC, some of Gibson’s family members believe many people aren’t familiar with her name or her groundbreaking achievements. Even so, the family is proud of her legacy.
Gibson died of respiratory failure in 2003. She was 76.
In addition to the street renaming, the city of New York intends to erect a statue of Gibson in her Harlem neighborhood. As previously reported by theGrio she already has been honored with a statue outside of the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center.