Serving Herself: The Life and Times of Althea Gibson

Oxford Univ. Feb. 2023. 576p. ISBN 9780197551752. $29.95. SPORTS
Brown (history of sport and society, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison) focuses on the first Black woman sports superstar, Althea Gibson (1927–2003). Gibson, winning 11 Grand Slams, was the first Black American to win titles at the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. With interviews, personal correspondence, newspaper articles, archives, records, and recordings, Brown gives readers a full portrait of Gibson, the daughter of sharecroppers from South Carolina. When they moved to Harlem, her interest in sports surfaced. She won the American Tennis Association’s girls’ division tournaments in 1944 and 1945, and, starting in 1947, she earned 10 more consecutive, titles. She was named Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958. She didn’t turn pro until 1958. Brown also reveals other interesting tidbits about Gibson, such as her pursuit of a career in singing and that she played golf professionally at one point as well. After retiring from sports, Gibson set up mobile tennis units and tennis outreach programs for underprivileged neighborhoods. When she suffered a stroke and a heart attack in her later years, the tennis community raised money to pay for her medical expenses.
VERDICT A highly recommended, inspirational title.
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