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Althea Gibson, a truant from the rough streets of Harlem, emerged as the unlikely queen of the segregated tennis world in the 1950's. Our film tells her story.
Team Althea
Durham, North Carolina
United States
3 Team Members
This project is fiscally sponsored by the Southern Documentary Fund.


ALTHEA has been accepted into prestigious film festivals this Spring, but in order to screen, we need to come up with more than $100,000 in order to license and transfer archival materials and prep the film for the big screen! 

ALTHEA's story is still unknown to most of us.  It has been ignored for too long, by too many.  Help us rescue it, and share her incredible tale with audiences around the United States and the world! Help us prove to broadcasters and distributors that there is indeed an audience for this story, and it cares enough about Althea's story being told to donate hard-earned money to support it's telling. 

We don't have much time - we need to raise this money NOW.  Contributions to the film, big and small, are incredibly important and each one increases our chance to share the important, yet under-told, unknown story of an American sporting icon. 

Director Rex Miller began searching for Althea’s story because of a photograph that hung on the wall of his childhood bedroom. Taken in 1960, it shows two brown-skinned women, dressed in their tennis whites, holding tennis rackets and standing on the front lawn of the Merion Cricket Club, a prestigious and highly restricted tennis club outside of Philadelphia. One woman was his mother, Millicent Miller. The other was Althea Gibson. . 

Miller says, “I was told that story from a very young age, the story of my mom’s big (and fleeting) moment of glory, a chance to play the Wimbledon Champion Althea Gibson.

Over the years I came to realize that most people--even in tennis--have little idea of who she was and all she accomplished. Not only did she succeed in Tennis, but in Golf  and music as well. Fifty years after she broke the color barrier, I think it is time for a fitting recognition of the legacy of this great champion and trailblazer.” 

The film is a lyrical, poetic, fluid piece. It includes archival material, first person interviews, re-enactments, primary source materials (newspapers, letters), animation, and a fantastic score.  It is not your typical historical documentary - we are taking an innovative approach to archives, music and storytelling. Here is one of our favorite examples:


director/dp/producer: Rex Miller
producer/editor: Elisabeth Haviland James
producer: Nancy Buirski
composer: David Mazjlin
The team behind the Emmy-winning film, THE LOVING STORY

Our team collaborated to make THE LOVING STORY a great success.  That film won a Peabody Award, the Emmy for Outstanding Historical Program, garnered two additional Emmy's, was short-listed for the Academy Award, played theatrically, on HBO, in dozens of festivals and is currently screening at more than 500 libraries and universities around the country as part of an initiative of the NEH.  We hope to replicate this success in sharing ALTHEA, another story about overcoming impossible odds in a segregated country in the 1950s. 


On August 29, 1950, Althea Gibson stepped onto the courts of the famed West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, NY to take part in the tournament we now know as the U.S. Open. Her near-win was marked with the kind of drama usually reserved for warring mythological gods: dark clouds stormed the sun, thunder roared, thick drops of rain pelted the ground, and lightning struck one of the iconic cement eagles of the stadium’s facade and sent it hurtling to the ground. Even Althea, who resisted defining her career in terms of racial politics, later reflected that it might have been “an omen that times was changing.”

The first black tennis player to compete at this elite level, Althea slammed her way through the color barrier into the world of international tennis. With a style of play she described as “aggressive, dynamic, and mean,” Althea brought a fierce athleticism to the women’s game, ushering in a new era in the sport. Her singles win at Wimbledon drew the attention of the world and a ticker-tape parade along Broadway. 

ALTHEA does more than celebrate a trailblazer in the world of sports. With rarely seen archival photographs and interviews with those closest to Althea, the film creates a rich portrait of the African American community of 1950‘s Harlem who saw her potential and nurtured her talent – including the exclusive Cosmopolitan Tennis Club, where the black professional elite pursued tennis on private courts of their own. If her rough edges alienated some, Althea also inspired fierce loyalty. ALTHEA is a tribute to the remarkable friendships and mentors who made her transformation from a street kid to the Queen of the Courts a reality. 


Indiegogo Donations make up 30% of that plan: $30,000 (approx $21,000 to go)

Private Investors, Private Donations: $70,000 ($50,000 left to go) 

We have a commitment for an additional $35,000 investment once we have hit a total $40,000 from any combination of the above sources!


First and foremost - archival licensing!  With over 400 photographs and dozens of archival film clips used in the telling of Althea's story, including many never-before-seen images, the archival material licensing fees are the single largest line-item in our budget! ALTHEA can't play in film festivals, on television, in theaters, via online platforms, dvd or even in community settings without clearing this material. It is the heartbeat of our story, and we need your help to make sure we can share it!


Even if you can't personally donate, please get out and make some noise about this fundraising campaign.  Share it with your friends, your family, your colleagues, your audience! Blog about it. Link to this page! Every bit helps! 

Find This Campaign On
raised by 65 people in 1 month
32% funded
No time left
Verified Nonprofit
$30,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on April 2, 2014
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Select a Perk
  • $10USD
    Social Media Shout Out

    For every $10 donation we receive we will acknowledge contributors on the ALTHEA page on Facebook and Twitter! Or, if you prefer to remain anonymous, we can do that too! (fully tax-deductible) (fully tax-deductible)

    2 out of 10000 claimed
  • $25USD
    Shout Out +Website Props

    In addition to the social media shout-out, your name will be forever connected with our project on a special thank you panel on our website. (fully tax-deductible) (fully tax-deductible)

    0 out of 1000 claimed
  • $50USD

    Receive a private link to view the film simultaneous to its world premiere in 2014 including a special Q and A with filmmakers online.

    0 out of 100 claimed
  • $75USD
    Your Name on Screen!

    At the $75 level, we will give you a social media shout out, and you will be thanked on our website and in the credits of our film. (fully tax-deductible)

    6 claimed
    Estimated delivery: April 2014
  • $100USD
    Be The First to Know

    We'll thank you on our Facebook, on our website, in the credits of our film, AND you will be added to our "first alert" list - you will be amongst the first know about special screenings, film festival events, and ways to engage with the pubic. (fully tax-deductible)

    11 claimed
  • $250USD

    Get a social media shout out, thanked in the credits and on our website, and a small movie poster featuring Althea Gibson! (amount over $25 is tax-deductible)

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2014
  • $500USD
    VIP tickets to a Screening

    VIP tickets to the premiere of the film, or to a screening near you. Sit with the filmmakers, and stand to be thanked after the film. Your name will be in the credits, on our website, and we will thank you via social media too! (amount over $100 is tax-deductible)

    3 out of 25 claimed
    Estimated delivery: April 2014
  • $1,000USD
    Mystery Memorabilia

    It might be an archival photograph. It might be sneakers. It could be a tennis skirt. Perhaps an old racquet. You won't know what you get until the package arrives, but it is something we have collected in order to make the film, and it is cool! You will receive a special thank you in the credits, on our website and via social media, too. (amount over $100 is tax-deductible)

    0 out of 10 claimed
  • $1,000USD
    One Hour Private Tennis Lesson

    ONLY AVAILABLE IN NORTH CAROLINA Rex Miller, our Director and DP, is also an INCREDIBLE tennis coach. He will work with you to refine your stroke, improve your feet, stop swinging at volleys - or on your mental game. You will also receive a special thank you in the credits, on our website and via social media, too. (amount over $100 is tax-deductible)

    0 out of 5 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2014
  • $5,000USD
    Exclusive, Private Screening

    Rex Miller or Elisabeth Haviland James will come to your home (or the venue of your choice) and privately screen the film as a sneak peek for you and a group of your friends. Available only in NC, Baltimore, DC and NYC. You will receive a special thank you in the credits, on our website and via social media, too. (amount over $500 is tax-deductible)

    0 out of 5 claimed
    Estimated delivery: May 2014
  • $10,000USD
    Associate Producer

    At the $10000 level you can become an associate producer, indigogo style. Invitations to exclusive events and screenings, the inside track on the making of the film, special access to the filmmakers and the ALTHEA team. You will receive a special thank you in the credits, on our website and via social media, too. (amount over $100 is tax-deductible)

    0 out of 5 claimed
    Estimated delivery: April 2014
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