The Jackie Robinson of Tennis Is….


The Washington Post has a list of “36 Must-See Items” at the newly-opened Museum of African American History and Culture, and the accompanying picture included a tennis racket. I clicked the link, hoping it was the right tennis racket, and was pleased to see that it was:

I don’t want to pretend that Althea Gibson has been lost to history or anything like that, but she unquestionably plays second fiddle to Arthur Ashe when the topic is African-American tennis players. But with all due respect to Ashe, who was a great player and a champion of civil rights, Gibson did it all first. She broke into tennis in 1950, fifteen years before Ashe. She won five grand-slam singles titles to Ashe’s three, and almost certainly would have won many more if she’d been wealthy enough to continue playing amateur tennis. She was the Jackie Robinson of tennis, but there’s no Althea Gibson Stadium at the National Tennis Center.

As I said, Gibson is hardly invisible. Nonetheless, she deserves to be a lot better known than she is.