New York City honors tennis legend Althea Gibson with street renaming

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Sunday, August 28, 2022
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Kemberly Richardson has more on the street renaming honor for tennis legend Althea Gibson.

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- New York City is honoring tennis legend Althea Gibson with a street renaming on what would have been her 95th birthday.

Gibson was honored with a ceremony on Thursday.

West 143rd Street between Malcom X and Adam Clayton Powell Junior boulevards will now be known as Althea Gibson way.

That is where she grew up as a young girl, playing paddle tennis, and giving a glimpse into what was to come.

Gibson broke the color barrier when she became the first African American to play at the U.S. Open championship in 1950.

She was 23 years old at the time and was often called the Jackie Robinson of tennis. But her work was far from over.

In 1956 she made history again when she became the first Black person to win the French Open. One year later she had a victory at Wimbledon followed by the U.S. Open.

"I knew she was a famous tennis player, but she always has been my auntie," her great-niece Crystal Gibson said. "She gave all of us tennis racquets when we were younger and one neighbor built us a tennis court in front of our house."

Gibson's ability to clear obstacles both on and off the court has led to many other athletes crediting their success to her, among them Venus and Serena Williams as well as Sloane Stephens and and Coco Gauff.

"It goes to show when someone tries to define what you can do, you have the ability to say no, I'm so good you have no choice but to put me on the world stage," said Toni Wiley with the American Tennis Association.

Gibson was a fierce competitor and at one point even played professional golf.

She eventually retired in 1958 and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

"When I feel down, when I want to give up, I remember I stand on the shoulders of Althea Gibson and that I should keep persevering," said tennis player Amanda Marciano James.

Gibson spent her final years in East Orange, New Jersey, before she died in 2003 at the age of 76.

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