On August 23rd, the United States Postal Service revealed the latest addition to their Black Heritage stamp series, Althea Gibson. The gorgeous stamp was revealed on the grounds of the U.S. Open in Flushing, New York, last Friday and was illustrated by none other award-winning artist Kadir Nelson (who illustrated Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech in breathtaking detail).
Gibson was the first African American athlete of either gender to win a Grand Slam title, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Nationals (the predecessor of the U.S. Open) in 1956, and turned around and won Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals again in 1958. In total, she won eleven Grand Slam tournaments, and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. As her time on the tennis court coincided with the American civil rights movement, and she so effectively broke down color barriers, she was often compared to another sports legend, Jackie Robinson. as the first African-American of either gender to win Wimbledon coincided with the American civil rights movement.
As if all of that isn’t impressive enough, she was a professional singer, appeared on countless television shows, worked as a sports commentator, and later became a professional golf player and the first African American woman to join the LPGA.
If you’d like to learn more about Gibson’s incredible life, or if you’d like to bring her into your classroom discussions of the civil rights movement, be sure to find Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson. (And check out our guide for incorporating this title, as well as other picture book biographies, into your lesson plans!)