Above: Althea Gibson & Arthur Ashe, Black American Tennis stars who paved, and established the foundations of black excellence in professional Tennis.
Althea Gibson is the first POC period to win a Grand Slam tournament (1956). During her career she would accomplish attaining a total of 11 Grand Slam titles (in every major tournament except Australian Open) and a total of 56 international and national single and double titles. Growing up in the era of segregation and the civil rights movement, her legacy stands profound as she not only became the first black champion in the elite Wimbledon tournament’s 80-year history, but the first champion to receive the trophy personally from Queen Elizabeth. Shaking her hand she commented,“was a long way from being forced to sit in the coloured section of the bus”
Arthur Ashe is the first black man in tennis to win a Grand Slam, and the only to this date to do so in the Wimbledon, Australian Open, and US Open tournaments; accomplishing a total of 35 titles in his career. Arthur also was the team captain many years for the international Davis Cup. Also being raised in a climate of racism, and discrimination, Arthur became an activist, speaking out against the South African apartheid. He continually sought to play in the South African Open as a means of promoting integration despite being denied visa multiple times. He would later regret this decision after entering the country, and experiencing and observing the racism, seeking to have South Africa to be expelled from the professional tennis circuit and Davis Cup competition.
Despite growing up in a environment which barred them from courts, and competitions, they rose above to become Tennis history’s greatest athletes. They left legacies of fundamental importance in the civil rights and race issues in the U.S. and abroad. By breaking through barriers to establish a presence of blackness on the field, they did not only rewire the minds of the white supremacist or passive white, but became role models for many future generations of Black athletes in Tennis and Golf.