Althea Gibson, a sharecroppers daughter raised on welfare mostly in New York City, learned tennis through public clubs. She rose to become the first African-American to play at in the Forest Hills and in the Wimbledon championships, and the first African-American to win either. Althea Gibson broke the color barrier in tennis, helping make possible the later careers of other African-American tennis players including Arthur Ashe and Venus and Serena Williams.
I want the public to remember me as they knew me: athletic, smart, and healthy.... Remember me strong and tough and quick, fleet of foot and tenacious.
I always wanted to be somebody. If I made it, its half because I was game enough to take a lot of punishment along the way and half because there were a lot of people who cared enough to help me.
• Alice Marble, 1950, in American Lawn Tennis magazine: The entrance of Negroes into national tennis is as inevitable as it has proven in baseball, in football, or in boxing; there is no denying so much talent. The committee at Forest Hills has the power to stifle the efforts of one Althea Gibson, who may or may not be succeeded by others of her race who have equal or superior ability. They will knock at the door as she has done. Eventually the tennis world will rise up en masse to protest the injustices perpetrated by our policymakers. Eventually -- why not now?
• New York Times writer Robert Thomas, jr., 1953: The lean and muscular young woman had a dominating serve, and her long, graceful reach often stunned opponents.
• New York Times writer Neil Amdur, 1955: She hits the ball and plays like a man.
• Betty Debnaun, principal of the new Althea Gibson Early Childhood Education Academy, 1999: Its only fitting to name the school after a woman as great as Althea Gibson.
She excelled in everything she did. Shes a living legend.
• New York Times writer Ira Berkow: She was the Jackie Robinson of tennis, being first and doing it with so much pride and dignity. But she was also not like Jackie in that she