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When Tennis Clubs Didn’t Allow Black or Jewish Members

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In the 1950s Althea Gibson was one of the country’s best tennis players but because of her race, she wouldn’t be granted membership to most tennis clubs. Though race concerned the tennis world, it didn’t concern Gibson as much. According to Arvelia Myers, Althea Gibson’s friend and tennis professional, and tennis champion Billie Jean King, Gibson just wanted the right to play and compete. According to King, Althea Gibson did not use tennis as a platform to promote other causes, as tennis pros Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King did.

TRANSCRIPT

(cheerful music) - [Man] The clubs were very restrictive, I mean, I would say 95% of the clubs that players played in had no Black members.

In many cases, they had no Jewish members and they would allow the week of the tournament for Althea Gibson or Arthur Ashe to play because they wanted to see the best players.

But it certainly, they couldn't become members.

- [Woman] As far as Althea was concerned, it was not about representing the race.

- [Woman 2] Arthur and I used our tennis as a platform.

That's not what she wanted. She just wanted to play.

Just let me be one of you.

And unfortunately in the 50's it just wasn't that easy.

It's just not going to be like that.

(melancholy orchestral music)

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