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Arthur Ashe was a legendary African-American tennis player who made a significant impact on the sport, as well as on civil rights and social justice. He was born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1943, and faced discrimination and segregation from a young age. Despite these challenges, Ashe excelled in both academics and sports, earning a scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and becoming the first Black player to win the United States Open.

Ashe's success on the court was only a small part of his legacy. He was also an activist and advocate for civil rights and social justice. He used his platform as a top tennis player to speak out against racism and inequality, and he was involved in many political and social causes throughout his life.

In 1969, Ashe joined a group of Black athletes in a protest against South Africa's apartheid policies at the South African Open. He was also an early supporter of the Women's Tennis Association, advocating for equal pay for female players.

Ashe's activism extended beyond sports. He was a vocal critic of apartheid in South Africa and supported the anti-apartheid movement. He also founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS, after contracting HIV from a blood transfusion during heart surgery in 1983. The foundation raised millions of dollars for AIDS research and education.

Ashe's life and career were cut short when he died in 1993 at the age of 49. However, his legacy lives on. He was a trailblazer and an inspiration, not just for Black athletes, but for anyone who values equality and justice.

Arthur Ashe was a remarkable figure who left an indelible mark on the world of sports and on the fight for social justice. As we celebrate Black History Month, we remember his legacy and the impact he made on the world.

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As Black History Month is a time to recognize and celebrate the achievements of black individuals who have significantly impacted history, it is important to acknowledge the accomplishments of Althea Gibson, a trailblazer in the world of tennis.

Althea Gibson was born in South Carolina in 1927 and grew up in Harlem, New York City. Despite facing significant obstacles due to her race and gender, Gibson excelled in tennis from a young age. She began playing tennis on the public courts in Harlem and quickly showed her talent, winning her first tournament at age 15.

Gibson's success in tennis continued to grow. In 1950, she became the first black tennis player to compete in the United States National Championships. Although she lost in the second round, this was a groundbreaking achievement that paved the way for future black tennis players. In 1951, she won her first major title, the French Open, becoming the first black person to win a Grand Slam title.

Over the next few years, Gibson continued to break barriers in tennis. In 1956, she became the first black person to win a singles title at Wimbledon, and in 1957 she won both the singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon. She also won the U.S. National Championships in 1957 and 1958, making her the first black person to win that tournament.

Gibson's success in tennis paved the way for future black tennis players. It helped break down racial barriers in other areas of society. She was one of the first black athletes to gain widespread recognition and fame. She used her platform to advocate for racial equality and civil rights.

After retiring from tennis in the 1960s, Gibson continued to make a difference in the world. She worked as a tennis instructor and became a professional golfer, another sport in which she excelled. In 1971, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 2019, a statue of her was unveiled at the U.S. Open.

Althea Gibson's legacy as a pioneer in tennis and an advocate for civil rights continues to inspire people today. Her determination and perseverance in the face of discrimination and adversity serve as a reminder of the importance of breaking down barriers and fighting for equality. As we celebrate Black History Month, we should remember Althea Gibson's contributions to the world of sports and society.

On July 6, 1957, Althea Gibson became the first black tennis player to win a Wimbledon singles title. She is pictured here in an unpublished frame from 1949 by the great Gordon Parks. (Gordon Parks—The LIFE Picture Collection

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A native of Chicago’s southside, Coach Lisa Thomas began her athletic career as a young tennis player on a Chicago District Tennis Assoc. scholarship. Quickly recognized as a standout junior by the Chicago Prairie Tennis Club (one o the oldest Black clubs in the U.S.), Lisa competed in her first national American tennis Association (ATA) tournament at the age of twelve at Princeton University. As a four-sport athlete at Lindblom High school, Lisa competed in tennis, basketball, volleyball and track and field. As a singles and doubles player on two Lindblom city championship teams, Lisa and her doubles partner were the first African Americans to qualify for the Illinois State tournament, where they reached the semi-finals and were ultimately invited to compete in the 18 and under Hardcourt National Championships in Arcadia, California. Lisa also competed in WTA/USTA tournaments and achieved a regional ranking in the Western Tennis Association.

A talented basketball player, Lisa was a four-year starter at the center position and reached the finals of the 1974 Chicago high school city championships. The following year, her team won the inaugural Chicagoland Holiday Tournament. She was named to the All-Tournament team, won the city championship, reached the third round of the Illinois state tournament, and was named to the All-state team. Lisa also played AAU basketball; her team, Salt & Pepper, won three state, three regional, and one National title.

An even more impressive college career followed after Lisa was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Illinois-Chicago to compete in tennis and basketball. As a tennis player, Lisa played #2 singles and #1 doubles, and qualified with her team and as an individual for the AIAW Illinois State Tournament all four years of her undergraduate career. As a basketball player, Lisa was a member of the All-State team four times, named 2nd team All-American three times, and made the final cut for the 1976 Olympic trials. In 1977, Lisa was voted Female Athlete of the year by her classmates at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In 1979, Lisa was drafted by the Chicago Hustle as part of the first professional Women’s basketball league in the United States and played until her retirement in 1981.

After completing her graduate degree, Lisa moved to Los Angeles and returned to her first love of tennis. As a member of the SoCal tennis association, she achieved a #1 ranking in the 35/over category, a #2 ranking in the 40/over category, and a top five ranking in the 45/over category. She also reached a #1 ranking in mixed doubles in the 35/over and 40/over, #2 in the 45/over categories. Lisa achieved a top ten national ranking in the 40/over women’s doubles and capped her amateur playing career with ATA singles and doubles national titles in the 35/over and 40/over categories and 2 World Team Tennis National Championships.

Lisa’s love for coaching was evident early, as she began teaching tennis as a college student during summers in Chicago. In 1983, she created a junior tennis program at Jackson Park. After moving to Los Angeles, she co-founded a South Central Los Angeles tennis program at Crenshaw High school. This program, free to the community, incorporated health and wellness mentoring for participants and ran for ten years, 2002-2012. Among the program highlights was a scholarship fund for college-bound graduating seniors who participated in the program. Coach Lisa continued teaching tennis to juniors in the Los Angeles area and directed an NJTL program for underserved youth at Griffith Park from 2014-2020.

In 1991, Lisa was inducted into the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Hall of Fame for her basketball and tennis achievements. She was the first woman to be inducted for two sports and the first African American inductee. In 2000, she was inducted into the Chicago Public League’s (HS) Hall of Fame for basketball. In 2018, Lisa was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame as a trailblazer in the sport and part of the first women’s professional basketball league.

As a science major at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Lisa pursued a career as a research scientist. She recently retired from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after 23 years doing research for the Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute (IBIRI), working to find a cure for Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. She has co-authored over 40 peer-reviewed journal publications and trained Cedar’s graduate students, medical students, residents, and research associates as a lab manager in IBIRI.

Coach Lisa in the news: Research Scientist Scores Induction Into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

Researcher Scores Induction Into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

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