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HBCU Black History Month

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For Black History Month, we will spotlight some of the greatest athletes in Historically Black College and University History. Today we spotlight a woman who became the first Black woman to win a Tennis Grand Slam champion.

Little Known Black History Fact: Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson started her sports career at the age of 12 in 1939 playing Paddle tennis. Gibson quit school at the age of 13 and according to legend used the boxing skills she learned to engaged “street fighting” and girls basketball. Some of Gibson’s neighbors helped raise money to pay for Tennis lessons for her. After dismissing the sport, she eventually gained a love for Tennis and became an elite player and won her first tournament in 1941. After winning more amateur titles, Gibson would land a full scholarship to Florida A&M University.

Because of racial biases including tournaments being held in White’s Only courses, Gibson was unable to compete in some tournaments including the United States National Championships (now the US Open). Eventually, things changed and in 1956 Gibson became the first African-American athlete to win a Grand Slam tournament, the French Championships.

Gibson’s accomplishments include:


French Open Title: 1956

Wimbledon Title: 1957, 1958

US Open Title: 1957, 1958


French Open Title: 1956

Wimbledon Title: 1956, 1957, 1958

US Open Title: 1957, 1958

Mixed Doubles:

US Open: 1957

International Women’s Tennis Hall of Fame Induction: 1971

RELATED: Black History Month HBCU Athlete Spotlight: Wilma Rudolph, Tennessee State University

RELATED: Black History Month HBCU Athlete Spotlight: Andre Dawson, Florida A&M University

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