The Groundbreaking Althea Gibson

By | December 17, 2018

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Althea Gibson at Wimbledon (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Although she doesn’t get the recognition that Jackie Robinson did, 1950s athlete Althea Gibson was as much a groundbreaker in sports desegregation as the well-known baseball player. A two-sport athlete, Gibson excelled at both tennis and golf but, like Robinson, found herself banned from the playing field because of the color of her skin. But she persisted, and in 1950, she became the first African-American tennis player to compete at a U.S. national tennis competition, paving the way for other African-American tennis players to come, including Arthur Ashe, and Venus and Serena Williams. 

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The Harlem Native Skipped School to Play Sports

Althea Gibson loved sports…all sports. But she hated school. She often skipped school to play basketball in her neighborhood, much to her father’s disapproval. She didn’t pick up a tennis racket until the age of 14, but when she did, she knew that she had found her passion. In the mid-1940s, she dropped out of high school because she hated it, and spent her time practicing tennis.