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Arthur Ashe Accepting Trophy at Fidelity Bankers Invitational Tennis Tournament, Photograph, 1970

Context

A champion of human dignity around the world, Arthur Robert Ashe overcame the discrimination he faced growing up in Richmond to become a top-ranked tennis player and acclaimed author. Ashe learned tennis from coaches in Richmond and Lynchburg. In spite of being barred from many local and regional tournaments, which excluded African American players, he won national youth titles in 1960 and 1961. A successful collegiate career at UCLA and selection as the first African American player on the U.S. Davis Cup team cemented his status as one of the world's best amateurs. Ashe won the U.S. Open in 1968 and, after turning professional the following year, thirty-three pro titles, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

After his retirement from playing, he coached the U.S. Davis Cup team to two titles. Ashe advanced the rights of blacks in America and throughout the world. With forceful rhetoric he decried the conditions faced by African Americans and protested the apartheid regime in South Africa. Because of the bigotry he had experienced, Ashe was long estranged from Richmond and Virginia. Eventually he reestablished ties and created a mentoring program called Virginia Heroes. Richmond honored him with a statue on its Monument Avenue, previously renowned for celebrations of eminent Confederates.

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Citation: Arthur Ashe Accepting Trophy at Fidelity Bankers Invitational Tennis Tournament, February 16, 1970, Robert Hart Photograph Collection, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.

Standards

VS.I, VS.9, USII.1, USII.8, USII.9, VUS.1, VUS.15

Suggested Questions

In Their Shoes: What message would you have added to the album?

Current Connections: Is there a current athlete who you would identify as having broken down barriers in a similar way?

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