Althea Gibson was an African-American professional golfer and tennis player who became the first Black athlete to compete in international tennis without being intimidated by her skin color or race. While playing professional golf, she broke down all racial barriers.
Althea Gibson, born on August 25, 1927, in Silver, South Carolina, was a woman with professional ambitions and dedicated thoughts. By winning some of the most prestigious sports titles, she established a new trend in the world of sports, particularly tennis. She didn’t care what people thought about her skin color and worked hard to get to where she wanted to go. Gibson’s family relocated to Harlem, New York, when she was a child.
She had a difficult childhood in which her family struggled to make ends meet while she had to miss school on occasion. She did, however, enjoy sports and quickly made a name for herself in table tennis. A famous musician eventually noticed Gibson and invited her to play tennis on local courts.
Gibson was given the opportunity to play on the Harlem River Tennis Courts after winning a few local games. Because of this fantastic opportunity, she won her first local tournament, which was sponsored by the American Tennis Association, an African-American sports organization dedicated to promoting tournaments for Black players. She made history as the first African-American tennis player to compete in both the US National Championship in 1950 and Wimbledon in 1951, after winning 12 ATA titles between 1944 and 1956.
Gibson’s participation in the ATA tournaments paved the way for her admission to Florida A&M University on a sports scholarship. After graduation in 1953, she faced another challenge and considered leaving the glamorous world of sports to join the United States Army. Gibson was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the white-dominated sports era.
However, there is always a breaking point in life, such as when a former tennis champion stated in a local magazine that there is no player in America of Gibson’s caliber. Gibson tried her luck again and played golf, but due to some bad luck in this field, she eventually returned to tennis.
The last few years of Gibson’s life, like her childhood, were filled with adversity. She was on the verge of bankruptcy until she was aided by former tennis players Billie Jean King and others. Gibson’s health began to deteriorate, and she died on September 28, 2003, at her home in East Orange, New Jersey, of respiratory failure.