Althea Gibson: Breaking the boundaries in womens tennis


Althea Gibson has her place in history as the first African American woman to win multiple international women’s tennis championships. In a time when tennis was represented by a small few, Gibson blasted forth as not only a woman of sports excellence, but an example to other African American athletes that success and achieving your dream is possible.

In today’s world, it’s difficult to believe that African Americans had such a tough road in sports. In the 1950’s, almost every state in the U.S. separated every aspect of life between ‘white and black’. African Americans were considered second class citizens and sports was no exception.

Althea’s background was from a poor Harlem family. It wasn’t until her talent was brought to the attention of Dr. Walter Johnson, an individual that promoted tennis in the community of African Americans, that Gibson saw a glimmer of hope. Dr. Johnson became Gibson’s patron and with his help she achieved some of the best tennis instruction and ability to enter higher competition levels.

By the time Althea reached her 40’s, she took her talents to the avenue of teaching and became one of the best tennis pro instructors. In 1975, Gibson was given the title of the New Jersey Commission of Athletics. For ten years, Althea served in this position as well as on the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness and the State’s Athletics Control Board.

In 2003, Ms. Gibson passed away at the age of 76. Althea not only broke all boundaries for Black American female athletes but left a legacy of hope for every little girl that had a dream. Every African American woman who has excelled in tennis has Althea Gibson to thank. She elevated herself above the problems of the time and proved to the world that she was somebody.

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