Althea Gibson – Early Black Dominance in Sports

Before the power and ferocity of Venus and Serena Williams, there was the elegance and grace of Althea Gibson.  Born 25 August 1927, she showed a keen interest in tennis at a relatively early age.  At the age of 14, Gibson began taking tennis lessons at Harlem’s Cosmopolitan Club.  The rest, as they say, is history.
Under the tutelage of the legendary Dr. Hubert A. Eaton, Gibson began to sweep through the professional tour with the force of a hurricane.  One of the fiercest women to ever pick up a racquet, her majesty became the first Black woman to ever win Wimbledon (1957) and the US Open (1958).  She also grabbed the French Championships title at Roland Garros in 1956 and made quite a showing on the Australian tennis tournament circuit.
After capturing the US Open trophy, Mrs. Gibson retired from tennis, opting for a variety of non-sports related endeavours (including releasing an album entitled Althea Gibson Sings, appearing in the film The Horse Soldiers).  Her most notable post-tennis accomplishment, however, came in another of her sporting passions, golf.  In 1964, she became the first Black woman to join the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA).
From her first days as a young woman at Harlem’s Cosmopolitan Club to her death on 23 September 2003, Althea Gibson set the standard for what a Black woman could achieve in America.  With undying grace and skill, she became the precursor to an age of dominance in the women’s game of tennis.
 Before the power and ferocity of Serena and Venus Williams, there was the elegance and grace of Althea Gibson.  Born 25 August 1927, she showed a keen interest in tennis at a relatively early age.  At the age of 14, Gibson began taking tennis lessons at Harlem’s Cosmopolitan Club.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Under the tutelage of the legendary Dr. Hubert A. Eaton, Gibson began to sweep through the professional tour with the force of a hurricane.  One of the fiercest women to ever pick up a racquet, her majesty became the first Black woman to ever win Wimbledon (1957) and the US Open (1958).  She also grabbed the French Championships title at Roland Garros in 1956 and made quite a showing on the Australian tennis tournament circuit.

After capturing the US Open trophy, Mrs. Gibson retired from tennis, opting for a variety of non-sports related endeavours (including releasing an album entitled Althea Gibson Sings, appearing in the film The Horse Soldiers).  Her most notable post-tennis accomplishment, however, came in another of her sporting passions, golf.  In 1964, she became the first Black woman to join the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA).

From her first days as a young woman at Harlem’s Cosmopolitan Club to her death on 23 September 2003, Althea Gibson set the standard for what a Black woman could achieve in America.  With undying grace and skill, she became the precursor to an age of dominance in the women’s game of tennis.


Written by Camiele White


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The Story Behind Black History Month

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