Althea Gibson, a sharecropper's daughter raised on welfare, learned tennis through public clubs.
Althea Gibson photo by Carl Van Vechten courtesy Library of Congress
She broke the color barrier in tennis, becoming the first African American to compete at Forest Hills and Wimbledon, and then the first African American to win those championships. She said, looking back on her accomplishments, "I don't want to be put on a pedestal. I just want to be reasonably successful and live a normal life with all the conveniences to make it so. I think I've already got the main thing I've always wanted, which is to be somebody, to have identity. I'm Althea Gibson, the tennis champion. I hope it makes me happy."