New York City will honor the legacy of International Tennis Hall of Fame champion and pioneering sports hero Althea Gibson by renaming West 143rd Street in Harlem, where she lived with her family, in her honor as “Althea Gibson Way.”
The renaming ceremony will be conducted on the late tennis icon’s 95th birthday on August 25th from noon to 2 p.m. at West 143rd Street between Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevards. Gibson family members as well as former pro Leslie Allen and other VIPs from the world of tennis are scheduled to appear at the event.
Gibson broke the color barrier in tennis when she first played in the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills in 1950. She became the first black player to win a major title at the French Championships in 1956 and won Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships in both 1957 and 1958.
Gibson is one of the most iconic and talented female athletes of all time, breaking the color barrier in tennis and becoming the first black player to play and win at Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships. After becoming the first black player to participate in the U.S. Championships (the modern-day U.S. Open) in 1950 (three years after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball), she won the first of her back-to-back titles there in 1957, also winning singles titles at Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958. After her tennis career, she also became the first black person on the LPGA Tour in golf. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971 and died in 2003. She was an athlete, coach, leader, activist, singer, actor and one of the most illustrious and celebrated tennis players in history.
In 2019, the United States Tennis Association honored Gibson with a statue in her honor on the grounds of the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center, where the U.S. Open is played. In 2022, Althea Gibson’s autobiography “I Always Wanted To Be Somebody” was re-released and can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1937559971/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_9QYX67JWHF6F6Z50TGQD
“I Always Wanted To Be Somebody” is the intimate and candid story of a girl who grew up in the asphalt environs of Harlem, skipping school, drinking hard liquor, stealing and fist-fighting, but went on to break the color barrier in tennis and achieving the pinnacle of the sport by winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships and becoming an inspiration for many future champions.
Hall of Fame tennis legend and pioneer Billie Jean King, who said she used to sleep with “I Always Wanted To Be Somebody” under her pillow as a girl, contributed the foreword to the new edition, writing, “Althea was our Jackie Robinson of tennis, and the barriers show broke down and the doors she opened have paved the way for generations of tennis players. Her contributions to our sport and to our world are many. Without Althea, there may not have been an Arthur Ashe, Leslie Allen, Zina Garrison, James Blake, Chanda Rubin, Mal Washington, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Coco Gauff, Frances Tiafoe or Naomi Osaka.”