Monday (August 26) is Women’s Equality Day. It’s also the day that a statue of tennis great Althea Gibson was unveiled outside Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City, on the grounds of the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The sculpture makes its debut on the first day of the U.S. Open. As a statement from the United States Tennis Association says, the statue “will forever honor the legacy of a woman who transcended a sport to become a true American icon.”
Legend. Icon. Trail Blazer. ❤️ Today, on #WomensEqualityDay, a statue of Althea Gibson will be unveiled outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium. The American paved the way for equality by breaking the color barrier in tennis. Read more ➡ https://t.co/aZsamjIESM pic.twitter.com/oRJaCfDng1— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 26, 2019
It’s an honor that has been a long time coming, considering the racial and social barriers Gibson smacked down and the doors she opened for others. At just 23, the South Carolina-born, Harlem-bred tennis player broke two barriers simultaneously when she became the first Black person (and Black woman) to compete in the U.S. National Championships in 1950, just three years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. The following year, Gibson was the first Black athlete to play at Wimbledon. By 1958, she’d won her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, as well as both Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships. Gibson won eleven Grand Slam titles in all, adding six doubles crowns to her singles success.
Watch a video of the unveiling below, courtesy of @PepsiCoTrung:
“In our sport of tennis, she was the one that really broke the color barrier. She is the Jackie Robinson of tennis,” Katrina Adams, chairman of the board and president of the USTA said when the announcement was first made last year. “She’s very important to our society, in our sport, particularly back in the ’50s, to be able to pave the road and provide pathways for others like Arthur Ashe, Zina Garrison, Lori McNeil, Chanda Rubin, Venus, Serena, myself and others, to be where we are today.”