Althea Gibson’s Firsts

With the U.S. Open women’s singles championship match set to begin later this afternoon, it’s time to look back at the amazing career of pioneering tennis player Althea Gibson, the subject of the 36th stamp in the Black Heritage series. Her long list of accomplishments includes several firsts in the world of tennis (and beyond!):

  • In 1950, Gibson she became the first African American player to enter the United States Championships, which is now known as the U.S. Open. She advanced to the second round.

    DCP Keepsake

    Expand your Black Heritage series collection with this lively, colorful set, which includes a sheet of 20 Althea Gibson Forever® stamps and a stamped envelope with the First Day of Issue color postmark. Click the image for details.

  • In 1951, she became the first black player to enter Wimbledon.
  • In 1956, Gibson won the French Championships, which is now known as the French Open. In the final, she defeated Angela Mortimer, 6-0, 12-10. With that victory, Gibson became the first African American of either gender to win one of the four major singles tournaments. (That year in Paris, Gibson also won the doubles crown with Angela Buxton.)
  • On July 6, 1957, Gibson prevailed in the Wimbledon final in straight sets, winning that prestigious tournament for the first time. Afterward, Gibson shouted, “At last! At last!” During the trophy ceremony, she was greeted by Queen Elizabeth II.
  • On September 8, 1957, Gibson captured the U.S. Championships for the first time. In the final, she defeated Louise Brough Clapp, 6-3, 6-2.
  • After her tennis career came to a close, the multi-talented Gibson became the first African American to qualify for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour.

See what tennis legends Billie Jean King, Chanda Rubin, and Katrina Adams had to say about this trailblazing tennis star and her influence on them and the sport of tennis.

Now let’s settle in for a spectacular championship match!