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New York City Renaming West 143rd Street in Althea Gibson’s Honor

Darlene Hard (left) kisses Althea Gibson, who holds Rosewater Dish. Photo credit: AP

Althea Gibson will receive a homecoming celebration on her birthday next month.

New York City will honor the International Tennis Hall of Fame champion by renaming West 143rd Street in Harlem, where she lived with her family, as “Althea Gibson Way.”

The renaming ceremony will be conducted on the late tennis icon’s 95th birthday on August 25th from noon to 2 p.m. at West 143rd Street between Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevards. Former pro Leslie Allen and several family members and friends of Althea Gibson will be on hand for the ceremony.

Althea Gibson and the building on West 143rd Street in Harlem where she lived with her family.

In 1956, Althea Gibson became the first black champion in Wimbledon history when she partnered Angela Buxton to the doubles crown.

Gibson became the first African-American to win the US Nationals, the pre-cursor to the US Open, when she won the women’s singles championship in 1957. She repeated the feat in 1958. Overall, she won a combined eleven Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles play during her Hall of Fame career.

Gibson won singles titles at Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958 as well as Roland Garros in 1956.

It was just 72 years ago that Gibson broke tennis’ color barrier becoming the first African American to compete at the U.S. National Championships—now the US Open—on August 25th, 1950.

“It’s simple. She’s the Jackie Robinson of tennis; she deserves it,” former USTA President Katrina Adams said of Gibson. “By breaking the color barrier, she made it possible for every person of color after her to have a chance to achieve their goals in the sport.”

Fittingly, Althea Gibson Way will debut on the Hall of Famer’s birthday and 72 years after she broke tennis’ color barrier.

“I always wanted to be somebody,” Althea Gibson famously said.

“If I made it, it’s half because I was game enough to take a lot of punishment along the way and half because there were a lot of people who cared enough to help me.”

“Althea Gibson’s autobiography ‘I Always Wanted To Be Somebody” is one of the most important books in tennis history and it deserves to be widely and affordably available for new generations of people. We are very proud to have helped bring the book back into mainstream circulation around the world.”

“When the Althea Gibson statue was dedicated at the U.S. Open in 2019,
I remember hearing Billie Jean King say in a news interview how much of a hero and role model Gibson was to her as a young woman and how she used to go to bed at night with a copy of Gibson’s book, I Always Wanted To Be Somebody, tucked under her pillow. I thought to myself, “I have to get a copy of that book and read it.” However, when I went to Amazon.com to buy a copy of this book, originally published in 1960, I saw that the only copy that was for sale was by a third-party vendor for $800. That was not right. Fans and young people need to have the opportunity to read Althea’s story, in her own words, at a reasonable price. Althea Gibson is one of the most important and inspiring figures ever in the history of not just tennis, but global sport and society. I felt that I could perhaps be the one to try to correct this situation.

“Since Fran Gray, the keeper of Althea’s estate, had passed away shortly after the U.S. Open statue dedication, I was not sure who the right person was to speak with to revive and republish Althea’s book. Via filmmaker Rex Miller, I was put in touch with Don Felder, Althea’s second cousin. Along with Fran Gray’s estate, I was able to work with them to bring I’ve Always Wanted To Be Somebody back into publication and make it available for sale to all at a reasonable price.

“When reading the book, one should be reminded that it was written in the late 1950s and you may be surprised at some of the vocabulary and terminology, but this is how it was at the time, which also serves as an education of what a different era it was when Althea lived and competed. The book is republished how it was originally written and published by Althea back in the day. We felt it appropriate to have Billie Jean King add a
Foreword to the book and we are thankful for her contribution and inspiration. We also want to also give a special thank you to Katrina Adams and Michelle Curry for their efforts in championing this effort. We hope you enjoy I Always Wanted To Be Somebody.” —Randy Walker New Chapter Media