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The Coyote Caller

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The Coyote Caller

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Celebrating Althea Gibson

Celebrating+Althea+Gibson
Image courtesy Library of Congress (2013650114)

In celebration of Women’s History Month, The Coyote Caller is recognizing women from around the world who have made a contribution to society. Today, we recognize Althea Gibson, the first African-American woman to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament.

Gibson was born August 25, 1927, in Silver, South Carolina, but her family moved to Harlem, New York in 1930. She had tremendous athletic skills as a youth, playing basketball and paddle tennis. When she began to play tennis, though, her natural athleticism took to the game quickly.

As a member of the American Tennis Association, the oldest African-American sports organization in the United States, she won the junior national championships at 17-and-18 years old, and in 1947 won the first of ten straight ATA national women’s titles. 

In 1949 she earned a full athletic scholarship to Florida A&M University.

The United States Lawn Tennis Association was for white players only. Soon, white female tennis player lobbied for her inclusion on the court. The lobbying paid off as Gibson was invited to play in what is now known as the U.S. Open in 1950. In 1951, she became the first African-American to play at Wimbledon in London, England, but lost in the third round.

In 1955, Gibson and her game were sponsored by the United States Lawn Tennis Association, which sent her around the world on a State Department tour throughout Asia. 

In 1956, Gibson became the first African American to win the French Open. After that, she won many tournaments, including Wimbledon in 1957.

She retired from amateur tennis in 1958. However, nine years later, she became the first African-American woman to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). Her best finish was 2nd at the Buick Open in 1970.

In 1971 Gibson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. 

Gibson was the first African American woman named Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press. She was inducted into the South Carolina, Florida, and New Jersey Sports Halls of Fame, the International Women’s Sports Halls of Fame, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She was also among Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 Greatest Female Athletes.

Sources

https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/gibson-althea-1927-2003/

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