Players and dignitaries pose for a photo with the statue during the unveiling ceremony of the Althea Gibson sculpture.
Even as a new US Open statue paid tribute to the courage and perseverence of black tennis pioneer Althea Gibson, Serena and Venus Williams warned Monday that the social and racial battles she fought remain issues today.
Gibson, the first black Grand Slam tennis champion, died in 2003 at age 76 after winning five Grand Slam singles titles, including a historic breakthrough singles win at the 1956 French Championships.
"It sends a great message to me in particular, knowing what she went through, being truly the first pioneer, an African-American in tennis, just to a sport that wasn't open to black people," 23-time Slam singles champion Serena Williams said.
Gibson inspired King
Gibson also helped inspire King, a 12-time Grand Slam singles champion who is now 75, to become a historic champion for women's rights.
"She totally inspired me," King said. "I knew if Althea had gone through what she had gone through and changed the world, that I had a chance to follow in her footsteps and help change the next generations.
"Althea is a very strong reminder that it's important to the living people right now that we carry on her legacy and the legacy of equality."
King said women still have great strides to make in society to achieve equality with men.
"Being a woman? We're still second-class citizens, and she's African-American, so just go down the totem pole some more," King said.
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