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Arthur Ashe serving at 1971 Richmond Invitational Tennis Tournament, Photograph, 1971

Context

Arthur Robert Ashe was an African American tennis player and human rights activist who overcame adversity and discrimination to become one of the greatest tennis players in American History. Ashe was born on July 10, 1943 in Richmond, Virginia. Ashe grew up in a segregated community but was able to learn to play tennis from coaches in both Richmond and Lynchburg, Virginia. Although he was banned from competing in many elite tennis competitions that were open to whites only, his talent did not go unseen. After graduating first from his high school class, Ashe was offered a scholarship to play tennis in California at UCLA. Ashe soared in academics and athletics. During his time at UCLA he helped his team finish first in the nation. He gained recognition and was featured in Sports Illustrated as a face in the crowd. After receiving a business degree from UCLA Ashe joined the U.S Army and served for 2 years while still competing in professional tennis competitions.

Ashe was clear about his opposition to apartheid in South Africa. Because of this, when he applied for a visa to play in the 1969 South African Open his visa was initially denied. This only encouraged him to use his position to become vocal and was a longtime opponent of apartheid. In 1973 Ashe was granted a visa to travel and play in the South African open where he won the title in doubles and finished second in the singles division.

Towards the end of his career Ashe suffered from heart problems, because of which he decided to retire from tennis with a career record of 818 wins to 260 losses and fifty-one titles. Following his retirement Ashe focused his efforts to his humanitarian work. His heart problems ultimately made him undergo multiple surgeries. During his second surgery, Ashe contracted the HIV virus from a blood transfusion. While he kept this information private he decided to share this information publicly before USA today ran a story on him. Following this announcement Ashe made many efforts for the research and education of HIV/AIDS. His legacy includes Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health and the Arthur Ashe Program in AIDS Care. Ashe died on February 6, 1993. Today a monument is dedicated to him in Richmond, Virginia on Historic Monument Avenue.

Citations: Arthur Ashe—Arthur Ashe at serve, Central Fidelity Bank Invitational Tennis Tournament, 1971Robert Hart Photograph Collection. Manuscripts & Special Collections, Visual Studies Collection, Library of Virginia. Arthur Ashe. In Virginia Memory. Retrieved From http://www.virginiamemory.com/online_classroom/lesson_plans/arthur_ashe [viewed 2 September 2015]

Standards

VS.1, VS.9, USII.1, USII.9, VUS.1, VUS.14

Suggested Questions

Analyze: Compare and Contrast Arthur Ashe's accomplishments as an athlete and community organizer to other great athletes such as Jackie Robinson.

Social Media Spin: create 140 character summaries, including hashtags, to explain the excitement of this photo

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