In Photos: Sports and Race in America

August 1963:

Althea Gibson crossed the boundaries into not one but two sports dominated by the white elite. She was the first black woman to win Wimbledon and followed her tennis career by becoming the first African American to join the LPGA Tour, playing the first of 171 tournaments in 1963 before earning full membership the next year. Courses around the US often refused to let her compete due to her race.

Photograph: Ron Burton/Getty Images

October 1968:

Tommie Smith and John Carlos (right) raise their fists during the playing of the US national anthem at the 1968 Olympics. ‘We were concerned about the lack of black assistant coaches. About how Muhammad Ali got stripped of his title. About the lack of access to good housing and our kids not being able to attend the top colleges,’ Smith said of the gesture.

Photograph: STF/AP

September 1970:

Muhammad Ali walks through the streets of New York with members of the Black Panther Party. In 1967, Ali was sentenced to five years in prison and his championship title revoked after he was convicted of draft evasion upon his refusal to serve in Vietnam. The decision was overturned in 1971 but Ali became a figurehead of resistance. ‘Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and … drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?’ he said.

Photograph: David Fenton/Getty Images

January 1998:

Venus Williams was 10 and Serena was nine when their father and coach first proclaimed his eldest daughter would be No 1 in the world. Serena, he assured, would be even better. One day they would play each other for the Wimbledon title. He was summarily dismissed, but in time every last prediction came true. If anything he undershot it. Their first of 29 career meetings took place in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open with Venus winning in straight sets, though Serena would more than even the score as the years progressed.


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