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Althea Gibson

American Tennis Association: Oldest African American Sports Organization In U.S.

Black History: Special Delivery!!

ata

The game of tennis dates back to the medieval era. The more modern form of lawn tennis that is played today was patented by Walter C. Wingfield, in Great Britain in 1874; with the first Wimbledon tournament being played in 1877. In the United States, the first tennis court was built in 1876. Some historically black colleges (HBCU’s) began offering tennis to its students beginning in the 1890’s. African American tennis players began playing in invitational tournaments at Philadelphia’s Chautauqua Tennis Club in 1898. When the United States Lawn Tennis Association( (USLTA) formally banned blacks from playing in its tournaments a group of African American men met to begin planning for an organization that would allow blacks to compete in the sport competitively. The group initially met on November 30, 1916. The American Tennis Association (ATA) was officially launched, and held its first national championships in August 2017. The championships consisted of three events, (men’s and women’s singles and men’s doubles) at Druid Park in Baltimore, MD.

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You Know About Venus & Serena: But What About Margaret & Matilda?

Black History: Special Delivery!!

Margaret and Matilda Peters
Margaret and Matilda Peters

Long before Venus and Serena Williams came to dominate in the sport of tennis, Margaret and Matilda Peters were pioneers!   The two sisters were affectionately known as “Pete” and “Repeat”. Their record as doubles partners was unprecedented from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. They achieved success during a time when whites and blacks were not allowed to compete together. The sisters played in the American Tennis Association (ATA) as teenagers. ATA was created specifically to give blacks a forum to play competitively. It was comprised of a network of Negro Tennis Clubs across the country.

The sisters were born 2 years apart in Washington D.C. They both attended college at Tuskegee University, graduating in 1940 with degrees in physical education. Both would continue their education at New York University, obtaining Masters degrees in physical education. They continued to play tennis both during and after college. Between 1938-1941, they won 14 ATA doubles championships. Matilda Peters also won two singles ATA titles in 1944 and 1946. In the 1946 title match, she defeated the legendary Althea Gibson. Gibson would later go on to become the first African American woman to play competitive tennis against whites in 1950.

During their time as ATA champions, the Peters sisters were well known. However, compared to other successful African American tennis players they have not received much recognition. Matilda died on May 16, 2003. Margaret passed away on November 3, 2004.

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