Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson

Wayne Patterson

One of our small pleasures growing up in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada was dredging up a couple of old beat up tennis rackets that us kids could bang around with.

My friend Kenny and I used like to go to the old, poorly maintained courts--- for one reason, no one would be on them.

We were about 12. We didn't know much about tennis. We played baseball all the time but tennis was just using the old courts when nobody else was around.

So one fine afternoon in Midsummer Kenny and I were at the courts and a very large and expensive looking car, with US license plates pulled up to these well worn courts.

Out stepped one person, completely and appropriately attired in tennis whites, unloading an armful of tennis rackets and cans of balls, and heading towards us. And this person was unquestionably, as we would have said, a Negro.

To give a little context, the year is 1957. My little hometown of Moncton had a population of persons of African descent that was probably zero. It was very rare that any of us would ever see a person of color. Our perhaps the occasional porter on one of the many trains passing through town.

But a black person, a black female, who obviously had enough experience with the sport of tennis to know exactly what the proper dress was, and who obviously had enough experience to have a whole armful of rackets, and who obviously owned a very expensive car, and with US license plates to boot--- well, there was only one conclusion.

To our astonishment, this elegant person approached us two little ragamuffins and asked if we would hit balls with her. Furthermore, she suggested that if we wanted to, she should probably take one side and we as a doubles team on the other side. We quickly agreed.

Her skill was evident from the beginning. She was just trying to rally with us and just get her exercise but of course without hardly trying she was passing us on many shots. And, as we would chase a...

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