We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Althea Gibson, born in 1927 the child of sharecroppers, was named by the Associated Press as Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958.Living in Harlem, her early training was nurtured by fellow Blacks, such as prizefighting great Sugar Rae Robinson, who recognized her natural talents. Gibson was considered the female Jackie Robinson, breaking the color barrier in tennis.The 5-foot-11 right-hander had a strong serve and preferred to play an attacking game. An athletic woman, she had good foot speed, which allowed her to cover the court. As the years went on, she became more consistent from the baseline.
However, that wasn’t enough to break through the color barrier, until the leading female tennis player in the US spoke out on her behalf, and behalf of the sport.Forced to play in what was basically a segregated sport, at age 23 Gibson was finally given the opportunity to participate in the 1950 US Championships after the World #1 champion from 1936-1940, Alice Marble wrote an editorial for the July 1, 1950 edition of American Lawn Tennis Magazine. Marble said, "Miss Gibson is over a very cunningly wrought barrel, and I can only hope to loosen a few of its staves with one lone opinion. If tennis is a game for ladies and gentlemen, it's also time we acted a little more like gentlepeople and less like sanctimonious hypocrites.... If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of women players, it's only fair that they should meet that challenge on the courts." Marble said that if Gibson were not given the opportunity to compete, "then there is an uneradicable mark against a game to which I have devoted most of my life, and I would be bitterly ashamed."
Gibson was now able to compete against the best players from around the world because the color barrier had been broken. Gibson's game improved to where she won the 1955 Italian Championships. The following year, she won her first Grand Slam titles, capturing the French Championships in singles and in doubles with her partner, Jewish Englishwoman Angela Buxton. Buxton had run into discrimination from other players and the tennis establishment along the same lines as those experienced by Gibson, so the two joined forces and achieved great success. Buxton was the first Jewish champion at Wimbledon, and Gibson was the first champion of African descent. An English newspaper reported their victory at Wimbledon under the headline "Minorities Win."
Gibson reached the top of her game in 1957 and 1958 in winning at Wimbleton and the US championship.It wasn’t until 1999 that another Black woman won the US national tennis title, Serena Williams, or 2000 at Wimbleton, Venus Williams.Venus Williams paid tribute: “For players like myself and a lot of other African-American players on the tour, Althea Gibson paved the way for us.”
Tennis players made no money in the 1950s, and Gibson’s finances worsened over the years. In 1992, she suffered a stroke. A few years later, Gibson called Buxton and told her she was on the brink of suicide. Gibson was living on welfare and unable to pay for rent or medication. Buxton arranged for a letter to appear in a tennis magazine. Buxton told Gibson nothing about the letter, but Gibson figured it out when her mailbox started to bulge with envelopes full of checks from around the world. In total, nearly $1 million came in.
In 2003, at the age of 76, Gibson died in New Jersey due to respiratory failure.
"If it hadn't been for her," says Billie Jean King, winner of 12 Grand Slam singles titles, "it wouldn't have been so easy for Arthur (Ashe) [the first Black man to win the U.S. Open (1968), Australian Open (1970) and Wimbledon (1975)] or the ones who followed."If it hadn’t been for those who challenged discrimination, Althea Gibson would not have had the chance to pave the way for others and for sport.
It is sorrowful that anyone ever had to break color barriers, or help others to do it. It is uplifting that, when it had to be done, there were people like Mr. Robinson and Ms. Gibson to do it, and others to help them do it.
Geoff ... Let me add to that honor roll Arthur Ashe, a great athlete and a great gentleman as well. We have had and still have some black athletes who shine with honor at their special skills. I'm thinking Tiger Woods too, a great golfer and a courteous winner *and*, when necessary, loser.
Still, I miss the Marquis of Queensbury when all those football players do those gloating happy dances after they make touchdowns. That's what you're paid millions to do, men. You're supposed to be a gracious winner, guys. Arthur was -- Tiger is. Learn and grow.
Marianne, you're quite correct about the many honorable athletes who have played with skill and conducted themselves as true sports as well. They have been of all ages, skin shades and sports. The end-zone dancers leave me annoyed rather than impressed, as do tantrum-throwers like McEnroe and Connors in their day. Tiger contains his frustrations as an adult and so do many others.
Tiger Woods has to be aware that his ethnicity matters to some people; it seems not to matter to him at all.