Althea Gibson honored at U.S. Open

The statue of FAMU alumna Althea Gibson outside Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, N.Y. Photo courtesy: Maya Ellison

NEW YORK — At the biggest tennis event of the year, diversity and inclusion were just a form of how Althea Gibson was honored.

On Thursday, U.S. Open officials brought National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations together to honor Gibson’s legacy with performances and more.

The Harlem street between Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard was renamed “Althea Gibson Way.”

Born in South Carolina, Gibson attended Florida A&M University on a sports scholarship and broke many barriers as she fought for equality in a“male-dominated” field.

Graduating in 1953, she went on to set goals as she was the first African American woman to compete at Wimbledon and on the pro golf tour. She received sponsorships from the United States Tennis Lawn Association, and won titles at the French Open.

In a celebration of Gibson’s 95th birthday, New York City officials and U.S. Open officials were able to give her a gift that will last forever.

As she was a member of the original Beta Alpha Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at Florida A&M University, her Beta Alpha sorors gave her an unforgettable show.

Ten young women performed in her honor at the HBCU event during the 2022 U.S. Open.

With special guests such as Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority 1st Supreme Charletta Wilson Jacks, fans were able to experience the legacy of Gibson through the stomps of the sorority sisters.

Other organizations graced the stage such as members of Kappa Alpha Psi, Alpha Phi Alpha, and Delta Sigma Theta.

Jacks explained that Gibson left a legacy that allowed others to persevere and that is what the performance meant.

“Her journey may not have been easy, but she kept going. She didn’t let anybody defeat her,” Jacks said.

The performance featured a 10-minute lesson of who Gibson was through visuals and the art of step.

Performer Kendall Johnson explained that the performance was a dream come true and was more than just being on the stage.

“It was truly an honor to be able to participate in this event, it was amazing to be able to pay tribute to our prophyte and recognize the history she created and the legacy that she left behind.”

The day did not end there as Manhattan community leaders came together with the family and friends of Gibson to co-name a street they say she lived on.

City goers can now take a look at West 143 Street between Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard as “Althea Gibson Way.”

Gibson moved to Harlem with her family in the mid-1900s where she lived at 135 W. 143rd Street.

She became a trailblazer where she participated and won local tournaments sponsored by the American Tennis Association.

“After losing one title in 1946, Gibson won 10 straight championships from 1947 to 1956. Amidst this winning streak, she made history as the first African American tennis player to compete at both the U.S. National Championships (1950) and Wimbledon (1951),” Manhattan Community Board officials said.

Gibson was able to set the grounds years ago for women of color in the world of tennis.

Today, her name stands tall not only in New York but all around the world as a woman who broke barriers and defined a world of equality in the tennis industry.