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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 ...

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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

Adam W. Green

tennis player, was born in Houston, Texas, the youngest of six children, to Ulysses Garrison, a postal worker, and Mary Elizabeth Garrison, a nursing home aide. Though initially diagnosed with a stomach tumor, Garrison's mother discovered she was pregnant at 42 years old, ten years after her previous child. Her parents chose to begin her name with “Z” to emphasize that she would be the last of their children.

Garrison grew up in the working-class African American neighborhood of Sunnyside Gardens in Houston. When she was eleven months old, her father died of a stroke; three months later, her oldest brother Willie, a catcher in the Milwaukee Braves minor league system, was struck by a baseball, developed a tumor, and died two years later.

Garrison was ten years old when her older brother Rodney introduced her to a free tennis program at nearby MacGregor Park Two months ...

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 ...

Article

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 ...

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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 ...

Article

Keith R. Brown

respectively, tennis players, were born in Washington, D.C. Margaret and Roumania, who were often referred to as “Pete” and “Repeat,” gained local distinction playing tennis on the clay courts at the Rose Park playground across the street from their homes in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. They played in an era when blacks were segregated from whites in both national and international competitions. In 1936 both sisters were invited to play in the ATA national championships in Wilberforce University in Ohio. The ATA had been founded in 1916 by a group of African American businessmen college professors and physicians who wanted to promote the game of tennis and provide a forum for competition at the national level The ATA provided the finest competition for blacks in the United States at the time Roumania played exceptionally well in her first national level tournament making it to the finals ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Leroy Nesbitt and Desmond Wolfe

educator, feminist, and tennis player, 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 of 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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Gregory Travis Bond

tennis player and doctor, was born in New York City, the son of Felix Fowler Weir, a concert violinist and member of the Negro String Quartet, and Ethel (Storum) Weir, daughter of noted Washington, D.C., educator James Storum. Weir first encountered the sport of tennis at the age of ten at nearby Mount Zion Baptist Church. Slender and quick, he readily learned the game and received his first formal instruction at Harlem's main courts on 138th Street from Edgar G. Brown one of the first great black American tennis players Weir entered the world of integrated tennis during his senior year at DeWitt Clinton High School He became the first African American to compete for the school s varsity team in that year but he also soon experienced the sport s racial inequities For example during summer breaks Weir s white teammates honed their games on ...

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Michelle S. Hite

tennis player and fashion designer. When Serena Jameka Williams won the U.S. Open in 1999, it marked a spectacular achievement. She was the lowest-seeded player to capture the title since 1968 and was the first African American woman to win a Grand Slam title since Althea Gibson in 1958. Williams's achievement was further distinguished by her humble origins.

The wealth and privilege associated with tennis were worlds away from the dilapidated public courts in Compton, California, a crime infested, distressed inner-city district near south central Los Angeles where Serena learned to play. As the youngest daughter of Oracene and Richard Williams, Serena, like her older sisters Yetunde, Isha, Lyndrea, and Venus was a willing participant in Richard Williams s dream of turning his daughters into tennis champions Virginia Ruzici s $30 000 prize for winning one tournament sparked Richard s interest in ...

Article

Maureen M. Smith

respectively, professional tennis players, are the fourth and fifth daughters, respectively, born to Richard Williams, a security agency owner, and Oracene Price, a nurse. Venus Ebone Starr Williams was born in Lynwood, California, and Serena Williams in Saginaw, Michigan. Both girls were homeschooled. By age ten Venus had won the under-twelve division tennis title in Southern California and was on the front page of the New York Times and in Sports Illustrated. In 1991 the family moved from Compton, California, so that Venus could accept a scholarship at Rick Macci's tennis academy in Haines City, Florida.

At the age of fourteen, in October 1994, Venus turned professional at the Bank of the West Classic in Oakland, California, where she nearly upset second-ranked Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. She also put in limited appearances on the circuit before making her major debut at the 1997 French ...

Article

Michelle S. Hite

tennis player, fashion designer, and interior designer. Venus Ebony Starr Williams gained national recognition for her tennis acumen when at age twelve she appeared on the front page of the New York Times and in Sports Illustrated after earning a number one ranking in Southern California's twelve-and-under age-group. Her precociousness in this sport of privilege was set in relief by her humble beginnings.

Williams spent her early childhood in Compton, California, a depressed inner-city neighborhood in Los Angeles that was troubled with crime. Tennis became a family aspiration when Richard Williams, the family patriarch, watched Virginia Ruzici accept $30,000 in prize money for one tournament and realized how lucrative women's participation could be. Richard soon learned the game by studying instructional videos and reading books. Yetunde, Isha, and Lyndrea, Venus's older sisters all played tennis with varying degrees of interest and success ...