East Orange honors tennis trailblazer with monument

Posted: Updated:

The U.S. Open kicks off in Queens in a few days, but in East Orange the community is honoring one of tennis' greatest pioneers.

At Soverel Park, a monument now stands outside of the tennis courts honoring East Orange's own Aletha Gibson, who was the first African-American to break the color barrier in international tennis.

Gibson won 11 Grand Slam titles during her career in the 1950s.

"She was a pioneer for the tennis world and also the golfing world, and it's inspiring to know that there was someone like Jackie Robinson for tennis and for the black community," says Asha-Glo Hagigal, a tennis player at East Orange STEM Academy.

The city of East Orange partnered with her estate administrator and longtime friend Frances Gray to dedicate the monument.

"Her accomplishments and what she did was a sacrifice in her life, and the young people need to understand and learn from her example, they have greatness inside of them as she had in her," says Gray.

City officials say the hope is that when young tennis players see the monument and step onto the court, they'll think if she could do, they can too.

Gibson, who died in 2003, is also set to be memorialized during this year's U.S. Open with a statue to be unveiled next week.

 

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