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Althea Gibson was born in Silver, South Carolina, and at the age of three moved with her family to Harlem, New York. She disliked school and from an early age was involved in competitive sports. Gibson began to play Tennis in Police Athletic League paddle tennis games. In 1945, she won the girls' singles championship of the nearly all-black American Tennis Association (ATA), and from 1947 to 1956 she held the title for the ATA women's singles. In 1946 Gibson moved to North Carolina to live with Dr. Hubert Eaton who, along with Dr. Robert W. Johnson, took an interest in her career. She spent the school year with Dr. Eaton's family and the summers with Dr. Johnson's. The doctors provided Gibson with tennis instruction and helped her academically as well. In 1953 Gibson graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

During the 1950s she began ...


Michael A. Antonucci

tennis champion and professional golfer, was born in Silver, South Carolina, the first of five children of Daniel Gibson and Annie Gibson, who worked as sharecroppers. The family moved to New York City in 1930, and Gibson grew up in Harlem. As a youth Gibson rejected rules and authority; a frequent truant, she dropped out of high school after one year. She did, however, enjoy competition, playing basketball and paddleball, and shooting pool. After Gibson won a 1941 Police Athletic League paddleball championship, Buddy Walker, a tournament official, suggested that she try playing tennis. With Walker's assistance, she began tennis lessons at Harlem's Cosmopolitan Club.

The following summer, Gibson was ready for tournament play. She won the 1942 New York State Open in the girls division a victory that began her rise through the ranks of the American Tennis Association ATA the governing body of black ...


Judith Jenkins George

Althea Gibson was the first person to break the color barrier in tennis. Gibson’s integration of tennis in 1950 occurred at the same time as Jackie Robinson’s integration of major league baseball. Perhaps Gibson’s achievements are even more remarkable than Robinson’s, since they occurred in an upper-class sport, seldom played by African Americans, and also since her pursuit of athletic excellence was unconventional for black women and women of her era in general. Seven years after breaking the color barrier in 1950, she established herself as champion by winning both Wimbledon and the U.S. championship in 1957 and 1958. It was Gibson’s desire to excel, described in her biography, I Always Wanted to Be Somebody (1958), that cast her in the position as the first black woman tennis champion; and Gibson excelled not only in tennis but also in golf.

Althea Gibson was born in ...


Michelle S. Hite

professional tennis player and professional golfer. Althea Gibson was born to Annie Bell Gibson and Daniel Gibson on a cotton farm in Silver, South Carolina. Her family settled in Harlem when Gibson was three years old. Constantly on the move, Gibson wandered her neighborhood streets in search of an outlet for her boundless energy.

The obvious talent Gibson exhibited at the Harlem River Tennis Courts, where she trained with the saxophonist Buddy Walker, led to a meeting with the illustrious American Tennis Association (ATA) champion Fred Johnson. The ATA governed competition for black players categorically excluded from white sporting organizations like the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA). With Johnson as her coach, Gibson earned early success in the 1942 New York State Open Championship Following this victory she competed in her first ATA national tournament where she made it to the finals She won the girls ATA ...


Leroy Nesbitt and Desmond Wolfe

Lucy Diggs Slowe was born in Berryville, Virginia, a farming community in Clark County. Following the premature deaths of her parents, Henry Slowe and Fannie Potter, the owners of the only hotel in Berryville, young Lucy joined the home of Martha Slowe Price, her paternal aunt in Lexington, Virginia. A few years later she and the Price family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, to improve their economic and educational opportunities. Looking back on her childhood, Lucy noted that her aunt had very pronounced ideas on dignity, morality, and religion, which she did not fail to impress upon Lucy and her cousin.

Always an excellent student, Lucy was salutatorian of her 1904 class at Baltimore Colored High School and the first female graduate of her high school to receive a college scholarship to Howard University At Howard University she was active in numerous literary social musical and athletic ...


Pamela Grundy

tennis and basketball player, was born Ora Belle Washington in Caroline County, Virginia, the daughter of John Thomas Washington, a farmer and house plasterer, and Laura Young. Ora, the fifth of nine children, attended the File School in Caroline County and the Chicago Presbyterian Training School. She lived on the family farm until she was in her teens, when she and an older sister moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where one of her aunts had settled and where many of her relatives would later go to live. The 1920 census recorded that Washington lived as a domestic worker in a Philadelphia home.

Although Washington did not travel to Philadelphia with dreams of athletic stardom she arrived at an opportune time for gifted African American athletes The prosperity of the 1920s sparked a boom in many sports and because African Americans were barred from many mainstream sporting endeavors they ...