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Althea Gibson was the first African-American female tennis player to win the US Open. As a tennis athlete, she had won 56 national and international singles and doubles titles. She was also a professional golf player.
See the fact file below for more information on the Althea Gibson or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Althea Gibson worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Althea Gibson was born on August 25, 1927 to Daniel and Annie Bell Gibson who were both farmers on a cotton farm.
- She was born in Clarendon County, Southern Carolina, but her family moved to Harlem, New York when the Great Depression hit the south.
- She was the eldest of five siblings and the rest of her siblings were born in Harlem.
- She did not excel in school, but she loved and excelled in sports from an early age.
- By 1939, Althea had won several paddle tennis tournaments hosted by local authorities.
- She became New York City’s women’s paddle tennis champion at age 12.
Career and Contributions
- Her tennis career began in 1941 when she was introduced to the Harlem River Tennis Courts.
- In 1941, she also won her first tennis tournament: the American Tennis Association (ATA) New York State Championship.
- Gibson won all ATA titles from years 1944 to 1956 except in the year 1946.
- Gibson’s talent and success was noticed by Dr. Robert Walter Johnson who became her mentor and sponsor.
- This mentorship allowed Gibson to receive more advanced instruction and play in competitions like United States Lawn Tennis Association (USTLA).
- She was able to attend college on a full sports scholarship.
- She continued to play in tournaments while she was attending Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University where she graduated in 1953.
- In 1949, Gibson became the first African-American woman to play in the USTA’s National Indoor Championships.
- As an African-American athlete, Gibson was barred from playing the United States National Championships.
- However, ATA officials and retired tennis star Alice Marble continued to lobby for Gibson’s participation.
- In 1950, she became the first African-American tennis player to enter the National Championships in Queens, New York.
- In 1951, she won her first international championship in Jamaica and, in the same year, became the first African-American to earn an invitation to a Wimbledon tournament.
- She was ranked the No. 7 top tennis player in the US in 1953.
- Upon graduation from Florida A&M University in 1953, she became a physical education teacher at Lincoln University in Missouri.
- In 1955, the USLTA sponsored Gibson and she went on a State Department tour in different countries in Asia like India, Pakistan, Thailand, and Burma.
- After the six-week tour, she stayed to play overseas and won 16 of her 18 tournaments in Europe and Asia.
- In 1956, she won the French Open and was the first African-American athlete to win a Grand Slam tournament.
- Teaming up with Angela Buxton, she also won the doubles title in her first Grand Slam.
- Later on in that season, Gibson continued to bag titles from international championships: the Italian Championships in Rome, the Indian Championships in New Delhi, and the Asian Championship in Ceylo.
- 1957 was the year when Althea Gibson won awards upon awards.
- In 1957, Gibson got to eight Grand Slam finals and won Wimbledon and US Open titles.
- By the end of that season, she became the first African-American athlete to be part of the US Wightman Cup team which won against Great Britain.
- In 1958, Gibson victoriously defended her Wimbledon and US Open singles titles.
- Gibson was named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in years 1957 and 1958.
- Gibson was the first African-American woman to appear on Time and Sports Illustrated covers.
- Before becoming a pro in 1959, Gibson had already won 56 national and international singles and doubles titles.
Life After Amateur Tennis
- In 1959, Gibson entered the entertainment industry and recorded her first album Althea Gibson Sings.
- She also became a sports commentator, an advertisement model, and a social cause advocate.
- In 1960, she co-wrote her first memoir with sportswriter Ed Fitzgerald and the book was entitled I Always Wanted to Be Somebody.
- While Gibson became more active in other things aside from tennis, she still remained a professional athlete.
- In 1964, she joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour as the first African-American Athlete to do so.
- In 1965, she married William Darben, whom she divorced in 1976.
- At the end of the 1978 season, she retired from professional golf.
- Gibson was Commissioner of Athletics for New Jersey from 1975 to 1985.
- She wrote a second memoir entitled So Much To Live For.
Death and Legacy
- Gibson suffered a stroke in 1992 and survived a heart attack in 2003.
- She died at age 76 in East Orange, New Jersey of respiratory and bladder failure on September 28, 2003.
- In 1971, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
- She was also inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, the National Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame, the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, the Black Athletes Hall of Fame, the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey, the New Jersey Hall of Fame, the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame, and the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
- She was the first woman to receive the Theodore Roosevelt Award.
- Gibson was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions on the 50th anniversary of her first US Open victory.
- The Althea Gibson Foundation supports young and talented tennis and golf players living in urban environments.
- Multiple facilities have been built in memory of Althea Gibson, such as the Althea Gibson Tennis Complex in North Carolina, the Family Circle Tennis Center in South Carolina, the Branch Brook Park in New Jersey, and the Gymnase Althea Gibson in Paris, France.
Althea Gibson Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Althea Gibson across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Althea Gibson worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Althea Gibson who was the first African-American female tennis player to win the US Open. As a tennis athlete, she had won 56 national and international singles and doubles titles. She was also a professional golf player.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Althea Gibson Facts
- Who is Miss Gibson?
- Althea’s Beginnings
- Gifted Athlete
- Truth About Gibson
- Hall of Famer
- Woman Pioneers
- Life After Amateur Tennis
- Tennis Then And Now
- Following Her Footsteps
- Althea Appreciation
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Link will appear as Althea Gibson Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, January 7, 2019
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