Althea: The Life of Tennis Champion Althea Gibson (Hardcover)

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The first full biography of Althea Gibson, the young woman from Harlem who broke the color barrier in tennis with her remarkable skill on the court.

In 1950, three years after Jackie Robinson first walked onto the diamond at Ebbets Field, the all-white, upper-crust National Lawn Tennis Association opened its door just a crack to receive the powerhouse player who would integrate "the game of royalty": Althea Gibson.

A street-savvy young woman from Harlem, Gibson was about as alien in that rarefied white world as an aspiring tennis champion could be. In her tattered jeans and short-cropped hair, Gibson drew stares from both sides of the color fence. But her astonishing skill on the court soon eclipsed all of that, as she eventually became one of the greatest tennis champions the United States has ever produced.

Gibson had a stunning career: She won top honors at Wimbledon and Forest Hills time and time again. As her star rose, the underestimated high school dropout shook hands with the Queen of England, was driven up Broadway in a snowstorm of ticker tape, became the first Black woman to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the second on the cover of Time, and was named the number one female tennis player in the world.

In Althea, prize-winning former Boston Globe reporter Sally H. Jacobs tells the heart-rending story of this pioneer. This first full biography of a remarkable woman reminds the world that Althea Gibson was a trailblazer, a champion, and one of the most remarkable Americans of the twentieth century.

About the Author


Sally H. Jacobs is a former reporter for the Boston Globe, a winner of the coveted George Polk Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting. She is the author of The Other Barack, a biography of Barack Obama’s father.

Praise For…


“In tennis, love means nothing. But love is everything when it comes to Sally Jacobs and her deft handling of Althea Gibson’s remarkable life and legacy. That sensitivity is most impressive when tackling Althea’s often turbulent days in Harlem, and Jacobs smartly evokes the give and take between a budding tennis star and her historic community. To return to tennis terminology: Jacobs aces this biography.”
—Herb Boyd, author of Pound for Pound—A Biography of Sugar Ray Robinson

"Althea Gibson was difficult to know and even more difficult to understand. Sally Jacobs has carefully documented the important events in Gibson’s career, bringing to light many details not previously reported while providing the historical context for the challenges she faced. The reader surely will come away with the sober understanding of the societal barriers a young, Black woman faced trying to gain entrance into a white dominated sport. Althea is a marvelous achievement."
—Gary Cogar, former museum director of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, exhibition developer of the 2007 US Open exhibit Breaking the Barriers: A History of Black Tennis, and former board member of the Black Tennis Hall of Fame

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250246554
ISBN-10: 1250246555
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: August 15th, 2023
Pages: 464
Language: English