Black History

Tennis Legend Althea Gibson Honored with Postage Stamp

Althea Gibson Forever Postage Stamp
© 2013 U.S. Postal Service

Beginning Friday, August 23, 2013, customers may purchase the Althea Gibson Forever stamp at, at 800-STAMP-24 (800-782-6724) and at Post Offices nationwide. Tennis legend Althea Gibson is the 36th inductee into the Postal Service’s Black Heritage stamp series

“I’m excited that the Postal Service is releasing a Forever stamp that honors the legacy of my friend, Althea Gibson,” said fellow tennis legend Billie Jean King. “Her achievements served as a catalyst for equality in sports and in life and I am honored to participate in this historic event.” 

As the first African-American tennis player to win one of the four major singles tournaments, Althea Gibson (1927–2003) helped integrate her sport at the height of the civil rights movement. She twice won Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships (now known as the U.S. Open) and became the top-ranked player in the world.

“Althea Gibson was impossible to ignore,” said U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer William Campbell. “Her achievements demanded Americans everywhere pay attention — and pay attention they did. She opened doors that other African-American tennis players would one day walk through — including Arthur Ashe, Katrina Adams, Chanda Rubin and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena.”

The stamp, which features an action shot of Gibson, emphasizes two of her notable characteristics:  grace and athleticism. Designed by Derry Noyes of Washington, DC, the stamp features an oil-on-wood painting of Gibson by artist Kadir Nelson of Los Angeles, CA. The art is based on a photograph taken at Wimbledon. 


The Making of the Icon 

Gibson was born Aug., 25, 1927 in Silver, SC. As a young child, she was sent to New York City to live with her aunt Sally. Gibson’s parents, Annie and Daniel, eventually migrated north as well, settling in an apartment on West 143rd Street in Harlem.

As a child, Gibson fared well in New York’s Police Athletic League (PAL) paddle tennis competitions. Musician Buddy Walker, who worked during summers as a play leader for the PAL, saw potential in Gibson. He purchased a few used tennis rackets and gave them to her. Later, she was formally introduced to the game at Harlem's Cosmopolitan Club, a hub for black tennis players.

In 1942, Gibson entered — and won — her first tournament, the New York State Open Championship. The event was sponsored by the American Tennis Association (ATA), the country’s black tennis circuit. Gibson went on to win the ATA junior championship in both 1944 and 1945. By 1946, Gibson was competing at the women’s level. She dominated the ATA in the late-1940s and earned her high school diploma in June 1949.

Soon after graduation, she entered Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee on an athletic scholarship. In college, she played basketball and also kept her tennis skills sharp. The latter came in handy in 1950, when Gibson got her first real shot at the big time. Perhaps she was spurred on by an American Lawn Tennis editorial written by former tennis champ Alice Marble — an ardent Gibson backer and supporter of equal rights. The United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) accepted her application to play in that summer’s United States Championships (now known as the U.S. Open) in Forest Hills, NY. Gibson, the first African-American ever to enter that tournament, advanced to the second round. In 1951, she once again made history, becoming the first black player to enter Wimbledon.

In 1953, Gibson graduated from Florida A&M and took a job teaching physical education at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO. For the next few years, her USLTA ranking fluctuated. She mulled joining the Women's Army Corps in order to support herself and her family. Still, she hadn't forgotten about tennis.

Around that time, coach Sydney Llewellyn began helping Gibson reshape her game. Gibson also received support from friend Rosemary Darben, a player on the ATA circuit. Throughout the 1950s, Gibson lived with the Darben family in Montclair, NJ.

In 1955, Gibson received an invitation from the State Department to join a delegation of American tennis stars for a public relations tour of Asia. The trip proved to be invaluable. She bonded with her fellow players and, in the process, gained confidence and on-court savvy.

She built on the experience, stringing together an impressive run of victories in Asia and Europe. In 1956, she captured the French Championships (now known as the French Open) in Paris and became the first African-American of either gender to win one of the four major singles tournaments. Gibson also teamed up with Angela Buxton to win the doubles crown. The victories were vital for Gibson, who was well aware of the burden she carried.

“No matter how hard I tried to think of myself as just another person, I was constantly being confronted with proof that I wasn’t, that I was a special sort of person — a Negro with a certain amount of international importance. It was pleasant to think about but very hard to live with,” Gibson wrote in I Always Wanted to Be Somebody, her autobiography. “It was a strain, always trying to say and do the right thing, so that I wouldn't give people the wrong idea of what Negroes are like.”

Still, Gibson pressed on, earning a measure of stardom in the midst of the civil rights movement. She achieved perhaps the most famous victory of her career on July 6, 1957, prevailing in the Wimbledon final in straight sets. Afterward, Gibson shouted, “At last! At last!” During the trophy ceremony, she was greeted by Queen Elizabeth II. When Gibson returned to New York, the city threw her a ticker-tape parade. The good times continued that summer. In August, she appeared on the cover of Time magazine. On Sept. 8, Gibson cruised to victory in the final of the U.S. Championships to win the tournament for the first time.

Gibson, the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958, had become the top-ranked player in the world. In 1958, she successfully defended her titles both at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Championships. She turned professional soon after, ending her amateur career with five major singles titles and six major doubles titles.

Gibson's days as a competitive athlete, however, were not over. In 1959 and 1960, she toured with the Harlem Globetrotters, playing before their games against fellow tennis star Karol Fageros. In 1958 she released an album called Althea Gibson Sings and performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. She also became the first African American to qualify for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. She played many LPGA tournaments in the 1960s.

In 1971, Gibson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She later worked in athletics for the state of New Jersey, where she made her home. She died Sept. 28, 2003, at the age of 76.

Many of this year’s other stamps may be viewed on Facebook at, via Twitter at @USPSstamps or at


Amtrak Celebrates 50th Anniversary of March On Washington with Wreath-Laying Ceremony at Statue of Civil Rights Leader A. Philip Randolph


Amtrak is sponsoring a wreath-laying ceremony today at the A. Philip Randolph statue at Washington Union Station as part of activities for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

The A. Philip Randolph Institute, a Washington, DC, based organization that supports civil rights, anti-discrimination, progressive tax politics and universal, affordable healthcare, will host the event in the East Hall at 3:30 p.m. The ceremony will honor Randolph, who organized the first black union for Pullman Porters, and as a civil rights leader, who, along with others, organized the March on Washington.

The Pullman Company, founded by George Pullman, manufactured railroad cars from the mid-1800s into the 20th Century and developed sleeping cars that bore the company’s name, Pullman cars. The Pullman Company hired blacks to work as porters on board their trains, and these porters became renowned for their outstanding service.  Pullman Porters, as they came to be known, were organized into the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters under the leadership of Randolph in 1925. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was the first labor union led by blacks to receive a charter in the American Federation of Labor.

The statue of Randolph stands in his honor on the concourse of Washington Union Station. Amtrak named one of its sleeping cars, Superliner II Deluxe Sleeper 32503, the “A. Philip Randolph” in his honor.

Passenger trains played a pivotal role in America’s history. During the Great Migration of the early 1900s, blacks left the rural South aboard passenger trains to the Northeast and other regions of the country in search of better wages and job opportunities.




My Great Grandmother: Jennie Patton Farmer Williams, 1856-1938

by Alonzo Hardy



My great grandmother Jennie (Patton) Farmer Williams, 1856-1938, was a former slave in Jefferson County, Florida who became a midwife for 20 years. She was born in December 1856 in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. She was also a member of the Mt. Herman Lodge No. 3517 Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (G.U.O.of O.F.) in Bartow, Polk County, Florida.
Jennie served as secretary during her time with the Order. She is remembered as a strict disciplinarian. Jennie moved to Polk County with her daughter, Victoria Farmer Hadley, at some point after the death of her husband John Williams in 1929. Jennie died October 11, 1938, in Palmetto (Manatee County) Florida. She was the mother of Dr. Alexander Alphonso Farmer, DMD (one of Manatee County's early black dentists), grandmother of then-Unofficial Sepia Mayor of Miami Charles Randolph "Uncle Charlie" Hadley (a school, park, pool, gym are named in his honor in Miami-Dade County) and Howard Hadley, MD (was a Miami medical doctor) and the great grandmother of Howard V. Gary (first and only African-American City Manager in Miami's history (1981-1984). 

The G.U.O.of O.F. Ribbon/Badge Lodge No. 3517 she is wearing is in the photo is a treasured possession of my aunt Alice Hardy of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

The Household of Ruth. This organization was the women’s auxiliary to the African American Odd Fellows order. Household of Ruth was organized in 1857 for the admission of the wives or women related to men in the fraternal order of Odd Fellows.

Photo: Courtesy of Alonzo Hardy


The Aftermath: Breaking the Black Man and Dis-connecting the Black Community [VIDEO]

I surfed across this very powerful video of the Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. He is speaking at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina on September 13, 2005. You may not like Mr. Farrakhan and you may not agree with him either. If you are black, no matter where you were born, I dare you to watch this video in its entirety.


Farrakhan is on point about tactics used to break down the black man in the presence of the black woman and the black child. He is on point about how we have lost the sense of community that our common melanin used to endear. He is on point about how, in a sense, we are worse off today than we were during slavery.

Please share this video with as many black people as possible. 



Hat Tip: Black Blue Dog



Black Mormons: Who Knew?


Nobody-Knows-film Few people, Mormon and non-Mormon, are aware that there has been an Black presence in the LDS Church from its earliest days, that the vanguard company of Mormon pioneers included three “colored servants” who were baptized Mormons, and whose descendants remained active in the Church for several generations.

Released in 2007, this documentary talks about that little-known legacy, and confronts the hard issues that surfaced in the most turbulent years of the Civil Rights Movement, when the Church restricted its priesthood from those of African descent. It discusses how that restriction was lifted and what the lives and challenges of the modern Black Mormon pioneers are.

Besides never-released footage shot in 1968 and many rare archival photographs, the documentary includes interviews with renowned scholars, historians, Black Mormons, with Martin Luther King III, and with Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray, retired pastor of the First AME Church of Los Angeles, which was founded by a former slave of Mormon pioneers.

Related Link:
Official movie website – Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons

Brainwashed: Black Inferiority/White Superiority [VIDEO]

Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority

“You’ve been misled. You been had. You been took.”  --- Malcolm X

Tom Burrell has written a powerful book, Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, that exposes and explains why the black collective finds itself in a current condition of dysfunction. It was difficult to put this book down because Burrell’s perspective is different from many books on this same broad subject.

Burrell’s perspective as a marketing and public relations expert is straight forward, eye-opening and raw. Our mental conditioning must be addressed before blacks can ever realize true, substantive progress as a people.

Brainwashing is not just a victimization of blacks although blacks seem to be the most damaged by it. Whites have been brainwashed, as have women, men, Latinos, Asians, etc., etc., etc. Pick a group, any group and you have been brainwashed too.

Shout out to Roland Martin of the Tom Joyner Morning Show for interviewing Tom Burrell and turning me on to this book. I've purchased a few as gifts. We'll discuss this book in more detail. Get a copy and Stop the Brainwash!


Is the Ebony Fashion Fair Calling It Quits?

The unbelievable but probably not unexpected news of the Johnson Publishing company Ebony Fashion Fair going on "hiatus" for the rest of its 2009 was quite shocking to me and a few of my friends. After 51 years, the historic traveling fashion show may be ending. Reason: the economy.

I've enjoyed the shows for thirty years. It was a mainstay during my college years at Florida A&M and is a fundraising event for my sorority at home.

Supposedly, the show will be re-worked, restructured and back for the 2010 season. Many civic organizations depend on proceeds from Ebony Fashion Fair to fund their philanthropic initiatives. The loss of the Fashion Fair is much more than just the loss of a fashion show.

Let's hope the Johnson Publishing Company folks will devise a business model that will be a win-win for all.

Rest In Peace, Naomi Sims

Before Beverly Johnson, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks and Iman, there was Naomi Sims. No, she didn't just make cosmetics, wigs and hairpieces, Ms. Sims has been credited as the first black supermodel. That is why her transition from this world without the appropriate acknowledgement by the news and fashion industry, is appalling. Ms. Sims succumbed to breast cancer at 61.

As a teenager during the black pride era, I recall seeing her beautiful brown face on the cover of many magazines and in advertisements. She was elegant and seemed to glide down the runway.

The pioneering Ms. Sims, who would become an entrepreneur and author, paved the way for ethnic models. Initially, she suffered much rejection because of her dark skin but she persevered and became the toast of the fashion industry.

Thank you, Ms. Sims. You blazed a trail that many take for granted today but I thank you for giving little black girls and black women a reason to walk tall and proud. Ashe'.

What is Juneteenth and Why is It Celebrated?

Perhaps you've heard the term Juneteenth but don't know what it is and why it's important to Black Americans. To keep it short and sweet, the word Juneteenth is a combination of the words "June" and "nineteenth." Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Also important to know is that President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 but it took two and a half years for the message of freedom to reach slaves in Texas.

Read more about the history of Juneteenth at If your community doesn't celebrate Juneteenth, perhaps you want to coordinate a celebration. It's an exccellent opportunity to reinforce pride, culture, education and community.

The Official Juneteenth Flag