Althea Gibson Quotes

Memorable Words From Celebrated African-American Tennis Champion

Althea Gibson Competing in Tennis Match

Bettmann / Getty Images

Althea Gibson, a sharecropper's daughter raised on welfare mostly in New York City, learned tennis through public clubs. She rose to become the first African-American to play at Forest Hills and in the Wimbledon championships, and the first African-American to win either. Althea Gibson broke the color barrier in tennis, helping make possible the later careers of other African-American tennis players including Arthur Ashe and Venus and Serena Williams.

Selected Althea Gibson Quotations

"I hope that I have accomplished just one thing: that I have been a credit to tennis and my country."

"I want the public to remember me as they knew me: athletic, smart, and healthy... Remember me strong and tough and quick, fleet of foot and tenacious."

"I always wanted to be somebody. 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."

"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."

"No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you."

"In the field of sports, you are more or less accepted for what you do rather than what you are."

"I knew that I was an unusual, talented girl through the grace of God. I didn't need to prove that to myself. I only wanted to prove it to my opponents."

"In sports, you simply aren't considered a real champion until you have defended your title successfully. Winning it once can be a fluke; winning it twice proves you are the best."

"Most of us who aspire to be tops in our fields don't really consider the amount of work required to stay tops."

"People thought I was ruthless, which I was. I didn't give a darn who was on the other side of the net. I'd knock you down if you got in my way."

"I just wanted to play, play, play."

"I was born too soon."

Quotes About Althea Gibson

Alice Marble, American Lawn Tennis magazine (1950): "The entrance of Negroes into national tennis is as inevitable as it has proven in baseball, in football, or in boxing; there is no denying so much talent. The committee at Forest Hills has the power to stifle the efforts of one Althea Gibson, who may or may not be succeeded by others of her race who have equal or superior ability. They will knock at the door as she has done. Eventually, the tennis world will rise up en masse to protest the injustices perpetrated by our policymakers. Eventually—why not now?"

New York Times writer Robert Thomas, Jr. (1953): "The lean and muscular young woman had a dominating serve, and her long, graceful reach often stunned opponents."

New York Times writer Neil Amdur (1955): "She hits the ball and plays like a man."

Betty Debnaun, principal of the new Althea Gibson Early Childhood Education Academy (1999): "It's only fitting to name the school after a woman as great as Althea Gibson. She excelled in everything she did. She's a living legend."

New York Times writer Ira Berkow: "She was the Jackie Robinson of tennis, being first and doing it with so much pride and dignity. But she was also not like Jackie in that she never came out aggressive."

Venus Williams (2003): "I am honored to have followed in such great footsteps. Her accomplishments set the stage for my success, and through players like myself and Serena and many others to come, her legacy will live on."

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Althea Gibson Quotes." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 28). Althea Gibson Quotes. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Althea Gibson Quotes." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).