Education from LVA



What are the characteristics of a person worthy of being a member of the Human Being Hall of Fame?

Lesson Images

Photograph of Arthur Ashe receiving a trophy, 1970

Arthur Ashe Accepting Trophy at Fidelity Bankers Invitational Tennis Tournament, February 16, 1970, Robert Hart Photograph Collection, Special Collections, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. (High Res)

Political Cartoon of Arthur Ashe

Courtesy of Joe Cannaday (High Res)

Standards Of Learning

CE.1, USII.9, VS.1, VS.9

Historical Information:

This Lesson Plan was created by Jennifer Zecher, a teacher at Park View High School in Sterling and one of the Library of Virginia's 2010 Brown Research Teacher Fellows.

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. His dignified approach to tennis and to life served to rebut negative stereotypes. With forceful rhetoric he decried the conditions faced by African Americans and protested the apartheid regime in South Africa. Ashe's interest in education spurred him to write a history of African American athletes, A Hard Road to Glory (1988). A television documentary based on the book won him an Emmy award.

Heart problems forced Ashe to undergo two surgeries, the latter of which required a blood transfusion. Serving as chairman of the American Heart Association in 1981, he added health advocacy to his list of public commitments. When it was revealed that through the transfusion he had acquired HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, he campaigned for those suffering from the disease. His humanitarian legacy has included the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health and the Arthur Ashe Program in AIDS Care.

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.

 For further information, see his full biography in John T. Kneebone et al., eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography (Richmond, 1998– ), 1:226–228.

Vocabulary Words:

• apartheid — the official policy of the South African government of segregation from the 1940s until the early 1990s

• discrimination — treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit

• equality — the state or quality of being equal; comparable in quantity, degree, value, rank, or ability

• Jim Crow laws — laws that segregated African Americans in public facilities and in other areas including social behavior

• prejudice — an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason

• segregation — separation of the races

Lesson Activities

Preactivity Bell Ringer:

Look at the photograph with students before studying the life of Arthur Ashe.  This photograph, published on February 16, 1970, shows Ashe accepting a trophy from Virginia governor A. Linwood Holton Jr. after winning the Fidelity Bankers Invitational tennis tournament.

Ask the class what they can infer from the image.

• When do you think this picture was taken? Why?

• What do you think is happening in the picture? Point out to the students that then-Virginia governor Linwood Holton is standing near Ashe. What might his presence indicate?


1. Have students read a brief biography of Arthur Ashe from the African American Trailblazers program on the Library of Virginia Web site.

2. Give students copies of the Joe Cannaday cartoon about Arthur Ashe (You can also project a copy of it.) Ask students to write down what they know about Arthur Ashe and then share their answers with the class.

3. After reviewing student responses, show students the five-minute African American Trailblazers video "Arthur Ashe, Jr." available from the Library of Virginia. In small groups, have students discuss the accomplishments of Arthur Ashe and answer the following questions:

• Why would the cartoonist draw a cartoon of Arthur Ashe as a member of the Human Being Hall of Fame?

• What obstacles in life did Arthur Ashe have to fight to overcome?

• How did Arthur Ashe overcome the obstacles in his life?

• What are the lessons we can learn from Arthur Ashe today?

• How did Arthur Ashe tackle issues outside of tennis?

4. Have students take turns reading aloud the article “Tennis Legend Arthur Ashe's Statue Unveiled In His Hometown,” from the July 29, 1996, issue of Jet magazine (available at Google books). Discussion questions:

• Where in Richmond was the monument of Arthur Ashe placed?

• Why was the location of the Arthur Ashe statue debated?

• Do you agree with the placement of Arthur Ashe's statue? Why or why not?

• How does the placement of Arthur Ashe's monument bring up issues from Civil War and segregation?

5. Go back to the introductory question: What are the characteristics of a person worthy of being a member of the Human Being Hall of Fame? Have students write down characteristics and then share them with their group and the class.

6. Ask students whether they feel that Arthur Ashe is worthy of being in the Human Being Hall of Fame. Have students give examples of why he is or is not worthy.

Extension Activities

1. Create a multimedia presentation and/or video on Arthur Ashe's life.

2. Write a book report on a book about Arthur Ashe's life. (See Suggested Resources)

3. Create a Human Being Hall of Fame video based on the criteria and characteristics that were discussed in class. Students watching the video in class will evaluate whether the people in the video meet the criteria set for the Human Being Hall of Fame.

4. Create a Human Being Hall of Fame for your classroom. Students should come up with the requirements for entry and nominate inductees through essays or other presentations, and then the class can vote for people they find worthy.

5. Have students write a short news article to accompany the picture or the cartoon. They can research the event and report the facts, or use it as a creative writing exercise to compose an interview with Ashe.

6. Have students create a timeline or a PowerPoint presentation based on the life of Arthur Ashe.

7. Have students compare and contrast the life of an African American tennis star today with that of Arthur Ashe.

8. Have students interview adults who remember Ashe's tennis career. Use these interviews as an oral history project to learn about Ashe's influence both on and off the tennis court.

Lesson Handouts

Power Point Handout (994 KB)

Suggested Materials

Steins, Richard. Arthur Ashe: A Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2005.

New York Times, February 8, 1993.

Sports Illustrated, February 15, 1993.

Ashe, Arthur and Arnold Rampersad. Days of Grace. Ballantine Books, 1994. (High School)

Ashe, Arthur and Frank Deford. Arthur Ashe: Portrait in Motion. Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1993. (Middle and High School)

Arthur Ashe, 1943–1993/Richmond Times-Dispatch. These 40 pages contain a few stories that the Times-Dispatch and the Richmond News Leader published during his lifetime, and most of the stories and pictures the Times-Dispatch published after Ashe's death. (Located at the Library of Virginia)

Hubbard, Crystal. Game, Set, Match, Champion Arthur Ashe. Lee and Low Books, 2010. (Ages 4–8)

Mantell, Paul and Meryl Henderson. Arthur Ashe: Young Tennis Champion (Childhood of Famous Americans. Aladdin Publishers, 2006. (Ages 9–12)

Wright, David K. Arthur Ashe: Breaking the Color Barrier in Tennis (African-American Biographies). Enslow Publishers, 1996. (Young Adult)

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