Professor Ashley Brown was recently interviewed by Smithsonian Magazine for an article about Althea Gibson, the subject of her upcoming book (in progress). In the year 1950, at age 23, Althea Gibson was the first African American man or woman to compete at the U.S. National Championships, which are today known as the U.S. Open. Six years later, at the 1956 French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament, Gibson also became the first African American athlete to win a Grand Slam title. She is remembered as one of the greatest tennis players in sports history, and for breaking racial and gender barriers at a time when American sports were still deeply segregated. Read more about Althea Gibson and her story here: Sixty-Five Years Ago, Althea Gibson Broke the Color Line at the French Open.
The Journal of African American History has also recently published Brown’s article about Gibson: “’Uncomplimentary Things’: Tennis Player Althea Gibson, Sexism, Homophobia, and Anti-Queerness in the Black Media” (The Journal of African American History: Vol 106, No 2). The article discusses how journalists disparaged Althea Gibson for living a broadly queer life suggestive of lesbianism during the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement, and how Gibson “veered from racialized gender norms and challenged black patriarchy as much as white supremacy” during her time.
Professor Ashley Brown is Assistant Professor & Allan H. Selig Chair in the History of Sport and Society at UW-Madison. Brown is particularly passionate about investigating the journeys of minority and female athletes in country club sports, and her first book, “The Match of Her Life” will be a critical biography of Althea Gibson.