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McKay Jenkins

tennis player, author, and political activist, was born Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Arthur Ashe Sr., a police officer, and Mattie Cunningham. Tall and slim as a young boy, Ashe was forbidden by his father to play football; he took up tennis instead on the segregated playground courts at Brookfield Park, near his home. By the time he was ten years old he came under the tutelage of a local tennis fan and physician from Lynchburg, R. Walter Johnson. Johnson had previously nurtured the talents of Althea Gibson, who became the first African American to win Wimbledon, in 1957 and 1958, and his second protégé would prove no less successful. Johnson was an exacting coach he had his charges practice hitting tennis balls with broom handles to develop their hand eye coordination But his lessons extended beyond tennis he also ...

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Michelle S. Hite

tennis player, activist, broadcast journalist, and humanitarian. Born in Richmond, Virginia, Arthur Robert Ashe Jr. was the son of Arthur and Mattie Ashe. Arthur experienced a traumatic loss at age six when his mother died suddenly. He turned inward and toward books and learning. An excellent student, he graduated first in his high school class. Given his appetite for books, success as a student was likely; however, given his physical stature, his success as a tennis player was a surprise. Though physically small, the skills he honed on the public recreational courts, maintained by his father, helped mold him into a top player.

Coming of age in segregated Richmond Virginia shaped Ashe s early tennis experiences and informed his political consciousness He was not allowed to compete on the city s best courts or in the city s top tournaments To improve his game he ...

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Alonford James Robinson

Arthur Ashe was born July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, to Mattie and Arthur Robert Ashe Sr. He began playing Tennis at the age of ten under the guidance of Dr. Walter Johnson, a prominent coach of African American youth from Lynchburg, Virginia. With Johnson's coaching, Ashe won three American Tennis Association (ATA) boy's championships, becoming the first African American junior to be ranked by the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA).

Between 1960 and 1963 Ashe won three ATA men's singles titles, became the first African American on the U.S. Junior Davis Cup team, and the first African American to win a USLTA national title in the South. His achievements earned him a full scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles, where he attended from 1961 to 1966 earning a bachelor s degree in business administration While in college Ashe won the U ...

Article

Joanna Davenport

It was a historic moment. In the 1990 Wimbledon women’s singles final, Martina Navratilova won her ninth singles title, a record held by no other person, when she defeated Zina Garrison, the first black woman to play on Wimbledon’s center court since 1958, when Althea Gibson won her second of two Wimbledon crowns. Being first has been a common occurrence for the professional tennis player Zina Garrison.

Zina Garrison, the youngest of seven children, was born in Houston, Texas, to Mary and Ulysses Garrison Her father died before she was a year old so Garrison was raised by her mother who worked as an aide in a nursing home When Zina was ten she began playing tennis at the local public park courts where she received instruction from the resident coach Impressed with her talent he entered her in local tournaments where she did well By the ...

Article

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 ...

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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 ...

Article

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 ...

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Tennis  

For information on

Tennis players: See Ashe; Gibson; Slowe.

Olympic gold medal winner: See Olympics, African Americans and the.

Popularity of tennis among African Americans in the 1920s: See Sports and African Americans.

Article

Tennis  

Rob Fink

During the last half of the 1800s and the early 1900s, African Americans found their access to the sport of tennis limited. Tennis, like virtually every other sport in America at the time, was segregated. The majority of the courts in the country existed at white-owned country clubs and racquet clubs that refused memberships to African Americans. As colleges and schools began to form teams, these teams were also segregated, especially at southern schools. As a result, black tennis players sought alternative avenues for competition. One of the earliest opportunities for African Americans to compete in tennis occurred at historically black colleges and segregated high schools; the players at these schools played each other. The experiences of black tennis players followed the same racial patterns that occurred in other sports at the same time in America.

With the playground movement of the early 1900s public tennis courts allowed African Americans ...

Article

Tennis  

Nikki Taylor

Tennis made its debut in America in 1874 when Mary Outerbridge introduced the game to her Staten Island cricket club after having seen it played in Bermuda This sport gained its initial popularity in America not as a competitive sport but as a leisure activity of the upper class at garden parties or exclusive cricket clubs Certainly wealthy people had the time leisure and lawns to play the game Because the earliest public images of tennis consist of wealthy women dressed in crisp white blouses long skirts and sun hats playing on lush lawns the sport became associated with the elite Initially too practical considerations prevented lower and working class people from participating in tennis Generally they had neither the lawns nor the access to cricket clubs required to play the sport Even after the first public tennis courts were established in Brooklyn s Prospect Park in the 1880s ...