We have hidden figures in many aspects of African American history including a pair of sisters who excelled in the sport of tennis back in the 1940’s, well before Venus and Serena Williams came on the scene.
Margaret and Matilda Roumania Peters learned the sport as very young girls and grew up to become champions in the American Tennis Association (ATA).
This organization was developed by and for African Americans due to segregation policies which barred any non-white athlete from the courts.
The ATA spawned another great player who went on to break the barrier for African Americans and make it possible to compete against white players. Her name was Althea Gibson who made history in 1958 when she became the first person of color to win a Grand Slam title in the French Open.
Like the Williams sisters before her Althea faced extreme prejudice and discrimination from those who believed people like her had no place in this elite sports arena. It took a friend who observed Althea’s gifts and saw past her impoverished background to support her training to become one of the greatest tennis players of her time.
You can read more about Althea’s fascinating story in “Nothing But Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson” written by Sue Staffacher and illustrated by Greg Couch. Check my summary of this marvelous book on the AskDrMarta Facebook page or on the Ask Dr. Marta Blog.
Looking for a STEM tie in? What does a tennis ball and a basketball have in common? There’s a lot more going on than you think on both courts! Check out the link below to find out and have fun!