Venus and Serena Williams are the two names that pop into many minds when they think about African-American tennis stars. But Althea Gibson paved the way for the Williams sisters, Arthur Ashe and many others during a period when the elite sport was very segregated.
Born in South Carolina in 1927, the teenaged Gibson began playing tennis in Harlem, New York, and after winning two national Black women's tennis championships, she debuted at the U.S. Open in 1950. After becoming the first African-American to win the singles and doubles titles at the French Open in 1957, on July 6, 1957, Gibson became the first African-American to win the prestigious Wimbledon competition. In 1957, she won the U.S. Open again and The Associated Press named her Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958. During her tennis career, she won 56 singles and doubles titles and is a member of the National Lawn Tennis Association Hall of Fame. But her skills weren't limited to tennis.
In 1964, Gibson became the first Black woman to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association and played pro golf until 1971. She served as New Jersey's commissioner of athletics from 1975 to 1985. Gibson died from respiratory failure in 2003.
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