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Althea Gibson

Breaking into elite sports

Born into a sharecropping family in South Carolina, Althea Gibson (1927–2003) spent most of her formative years in Harlem, New York, where she was first introduced to the game of tennis as a teenager. At age 20, Gibson won the first of 10 straight titles at the national tournament of the American Tennis Association, the first African American sports association founded under segregation. Defying racist stereotypes, she proved that African Americans could comport themselves—and excel—in the most exclusive, elite spaces in society. Despite success in the early 1950s, Gibson wasn’t selected to represent the United States in the Wightman Cup tournament until 1957, by which time she had already won two of her five grand slam titles: the 1956 French Nationals championship and the 1957 Wimbledon title. More than a decade later, she was named New Jersey’s commissioner of athletics, becoming the first woman to head a state’s athletic commission.

Photograph of Althea Gibson

Date
1959
Created by
Wallace Seawell, American, 1916 - 2007
Subject of
Althea Gibson, American, 1927 - 2003
Description
In this black-and-white photograph, Althea Gibson poses on a stool with two tennis rackets. Both the rackets have dark colors printed with "Althea Gibson" in white letters.
Topic
African American
Athletes
Photography
Sports
Tennis
See more items in
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Classification
Media Arts-Photography
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Data Source
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Object number
2009.27.1.3
Type
gelatin silver prints
portraits
Restrictions & Rights
Unknown - Restrictions Possible
Medium
silver and photographic gelatin on photographic paper
Dimensions
10 1/8 x 8 1/16 in. (25.7 x 20.5 cm)
GUID
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/fd5203d6ea2-1689-41b6-bdc1-f882e85cd9ac
Record ID
nmaahc_2009.27.1.3
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