It’s February. The month of Valentine’s and love. And, one thing we love-love about the month of February (besides the Australian Open 2021 tournament being played in Melbourne) is February’s official designation as “Black History Month” in the U.S.
At Love-Love Tennis, we always celebrate the diversity of players involved in the global game of tennis. Since it’s #BlackHistoryMonth, however, we want to specifically highlight the achievements of a very special African-American female tennis champion of the past, Althea Gibson.
Althea Gibson. Say her name. Or, maybe sing it (you’ll understand if you keep reading). If you haven’t heard the name before, we want you to know more about this woman, a woman who was born in 1927, who played competitive tennis in the late 1950s, and who, according to Wikipedia’s entry about her life, was “one of the first Black athletes to cross the color line of international tennis.”
During her soaring tennis career, Althea Gibson won in total 11 Grand Slams:
These accomplishments were significant, especially so, because her wins came during a time in history when “racism and prejudice were widespread in sports and in society.” In 1957 and 1958, Althea was named “Female Athlete of the Year” by the Associated Press. She was also the first African-American woman to appear on the covers of Sports Illustrated and Time magazines.
Without doubt, Althea Gibson made an unforgettable impact on the game. Modern-day tennis great Venus Williams has previously spoken about Althea’s impact saying, “Her accomplishments set the stage for my success, and through players like myself and Serena and many others to come, her legacy will live on.”
Besides her success at tennis, Althea was also successful in other sports and in non-sports realms. She was a champion women’s paddle tennis player, and, after her retirement from professional tennis, she ventured into professional golf at age 37, becoming the first African-American woman to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour in 1964.
To top it off, Althea could also play the saxophone and sing! A talented vocalist, she scored a professional record deal and recorded an album of the popular standards of her day. Listen to Althea singing the classic, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”
We can’t give anything but love to Althea either. We salute Althea Gibson for the difference she made to progress the lives of African-Americans and the global game of tennis. Thank you, Althea.