Tennis and Justice in the Civil Rights Era
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title page, Copyright, Dedication
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As a child growing up in suburban Chicago in the days before the Internet, I would entertain myself for hours by bouncing a rubber ball against the wall of my family’s brick house. I imagined myself as Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg hitting a home run or pitcher Greg Maddux hurling a complete game. In the evenings...
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The grandstands of the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York, brimmed with excitement on September 9, 1968, the date of the first-ever U.S. Open championship match. Ever since the United States Lawn Tennis Association made the venue its home in 1915, the crowds that entered the turnstiles...
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Two public parks, one majestic, the other dilapidated, underscored the realities of “separate but equal” in the 1950s. For many residents of Richmond, Virginia, Byrd Park was the perfect place to escape the grind of city life. Located north of the James River in the city’s West End, the park off ered three man- made lakes...
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As Ashe prepared to complete Mrs. Cox’s homework assignment, his comfort zone suddenly eluded him. The freshman En glish teacher at Maggie Walker High School had instructed her students to write a short essay that required each of the young men and women to take a position on an issue. The assignment...
3. An Emerging Activist
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“It was a time of horror, embitterment, despair, and agony,” wrote one historian about 1968. Another scholar, offering a more balanced perspective, remarked that “1968 combined both revolutionary bombast and spiritual fulfillment, ecstasy and self- destruction, success and failure.” In 1968 America launched...
4. Bright Lights and Civil Rights
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September 15, 1968, began like any other Sunday in America. While some families readied for church or prepared to run errands, others turned on their television sets to watch the weekly news programs over breakfast and coffee. Since its debut on November 7, 1954, CBS’s Face the Nation had been a must-see...
5. Tennis Wars
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The early 1970s were frustrating years for an embattled Arthur Ashe. Anger and disappointment over his visa denials had spread beyond the tennis world. Within South Africa, Prime Minister Vorster touted his rejection of Ashe in speeches and interviews throughout the country, hoping to convince the racial hardliners...
6. Defeat and Victory in South Africa
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In late November 1973 Ashe was a long way from the beaches of Miami and the tennis courts of the Doral Country Club. And he was mentally and physically exhausted. He had just spent thirteen days in South Africa competing in the South African Open, touring the slums of Soweto, debating professors and students...
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The reviews were in. “Ashe cut an aloof, disdainful figure on the courts. He was so dignified he was almost painful to watch,” reported the Cape Times. The “integrated” crowds had erupted in cheers after every point and following each one of Ashe’s powerful strokes. Exhibiting an uncharacteristic focus and a...
8. The Comeback
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“The day will come when you’re going to have to stand on your own two feet and make it,” lectured Ashe over boos, jeers, and angry shouts. Like the black South African journalists to whom Ashe had spoken years earlier, this crowd of Howard University students refused to let Ashe hold serve. When he voiced...
9. Triumph and Tragedy
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“The game desperately needs the Arthur Ashes,” wrote one Richmond columnist, “the men with his vision, his voice of reason, his eloquence, his demeanor.” In August 1979, however, an ailing Ashe remained in no position to take the court. While Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, and John McEnroe thrilled spectators...
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Virginia state flags flew at half- staff on February 9, 1993, on the orders of Douglas Wilder, the state’s first African American governor. Hours before sunset on a cold and rainy winter day, white and black, rich and poor, men and women, liberals and conservatives all lined the streets of downtown Richmond to pay...
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Essay on Sources
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Scholars interested in Ashe’s public life should fi rst consult the mainstream pop u lar press. Beginning in the mid- 1960s, sportswriters such as Allison Danzig, Jim Murray, Neil Amdur, Frank Deford, and Bud Collins reported on Ashe’s athletic career and social activism for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Boston...
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Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 12 halftones
Publication Year: 2014