Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #73

Althea Gibson (1927 – 2003)

73 Althea Gibson

In the 1950’s, when tennis was enormously segregated, Althea Gibson became the first black player to win a Grand Slam title and the first to compete at all in the US Nationals. She came to this feat from a 10-year winning streak at the American Tennis Association’s National Women’s titles (a record unmatched before or since). Growing up in Harlem, she had learned the game at night, after the courts had closed, not being allowed to join white New Yorkers on the court during the day. From these challenges, through her victories in Queens and elsewhere, to becoming the first black player on the US Women’s Pro Golf Circuit, to her later service as New Jersey Athletic Commissioner, Gibson cemented her status as one of the most important figures in 20th century sports history.

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