U.S. # 4803
2013 46¢ Althea Gibson
Before she could compete on a tennis court, Althea Gibson had to defeat racism and segregation. She proved to be a formidable opponent, breaking the color barrier in professional tennis and earning recognition for herself as the “female Jackie Robinson.”
Gibson (1927-2003) was born in the South but grew up in Harlem. Unhappy in school and often absent, Gibson first explored tennis by bouncing rubber balls off a brick wall until a one-armed coach taught her how to play. With the help of supporters including boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, she won her first tournament at age 15.
Gibson quickly rose through the ranks of the American Tennis Association, which was founded in 1916 for black players. She won the ATA singles tournament ten years in a row, but was banned from more prestigious events because of her race. Finally, white tennis star Alice Marble wrote an open letter in protest. Gibson was allowed to compete in the U.S. Nationals beginning in 1950.
Perfecting an aggressive serve-and-volley style, Gibson made history by becoming the first black person to win a Wimbledon title, the French Open in both singles and doubles, the doubles title at the Australian Open, and the U.S. Open.
U.S. #4803 features an oil on wood painting by Kadir Nelson of Althea Gibson at Wimbledon.
Value: 46¢ 1-ounce first-class letter rate
Issued: August 23, 2013
First Day City: Flushing, NY
Type of Stamp: Commemorative
Printed by: Avery Dennison
Method: Photogravure printing in sheets of 200 in 10 panes of 20
Perforation: Serpentine Die Cut 11
Quantity Printed: 40,000,000 stamps
The Althea Gibson stamp is the 36th issue in the Black Heritage series. The longest-running U.S. commemorative series, Black Heritage began in 1978 with an issue honoring Harriet Tubman. Click here for more on the Black Heritage series.