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The story of Althea Gibson, the unlikely queen of the segregated tennis world during the 1950s, premieres on Friday September 4 at 9pm on PBS during the U.S. Open. Althea Gibson is an icon, one of the greatest athletes of our time, and a true American hero who paved the way for players like Serena Williams – who will be playing for a calendar slam this weekend.

Gibson grew up in Harlem, the daughter of a sharecropper who migrated north, and became the first African American tennis player (not woman, but player) to play and win at Wimbledon.

People often cite Arthur Ashe as the first African American to win Wimbledon (1975) but it was, in fact, Gibson, who was the first African American to cross the color line playing and winning at Wimbledon (1957 and 1958) and at the U.S. Nationals (1957 and 1958 – precursor of the U.S. Open).

Gibson broke down barriers like no one before her and this 90 minute documentary, which includes hundreds of vintage photographs, sounds like a great addition to what is always a great tennis weekend.

American Masters: Althea premieres nationwide Friday, September 4, 9-10:30 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Encore presentation of American Masters: Billie Jean King follows, 10:30 p.m. -12 midnight.

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