This street in Harlem was just renamed after a tennis great


Just in time for the kickoff to this year’s U.S. Open, officials announced that the intersection of West 143rd Street and Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem will forever be known as althea Gibson Way, an ode to the first Black tennis player to win a Grand Slam title.

The renaming took place last week, on what would have been Gibson’s 95th birthday, right in front of the champion’s old apartment building. Gibson’s great niece, Sonia Melvin, attended the celebration alongside a number of other family members.

The street renaming is not the only tribute to Gibson in New York. In fact, there is a statue of the star currently on display at the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center in Queens and, according to NBC News, the city of New York is planning on erecting another monument dedicated to her in her Harlem hometown in the near future.

Gibson, the daughter of sharecroppers, was born in South Carolina in 1927. She moved to Harlem with her family in 1929, which is where the future athlete was first introduced to the sport at Harlem River Tennis Courts in 1941.

Althea Gibson
Photograph: Fred Palumbo

In 1950, when Gibson was 23, she became the first African American player to compete at the U.S. Open. She eventually became the first one to win a Grand Slam tournament in 1956, the French Open and, just a year later, she became the first Black player to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. 

Unsurprisingly, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971. 

Gibson passed from respiratory failure in East Orange, New Jersey at the age of 76 in 2003.

Needless to say, the late tennis star paved the way for players like Venus and Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff to make a splash in the industry.

“Once given the chance, she became a champion, a role model and an icon,” Manhattan Community Board 10 wrote in an official statement about the approved re-naming last year. “She became somebody. Somebody special. Through her talents and tenacity, Althea Gibson opened doors and opened minds.” 



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