The Letter of the Black Ashe

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Amateur Championships in five sets against U. Davis Cup teammate Bob Lutz. That made Ashe the first black person to win the event and the first player to win the U. Amateur and US Open in the same calendar year. It was the first US Open played during the Open era, when amateurs and pros could play together.

Once Ashe completed his service tour in February and he negotiated with the touring groups of professionals, he would also be eligible to play for expenses or prize money under the national association. But I was serving well, and that was the whole story. I have a mandate to do all I can. We all know the problems in the world. The solution for the future is to study the past. The year-old Richmond, Virginia, native wrapped up the first set in an hour and three minutes thanks to hitting 17 of his aces during the frame.


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In the second set, a combination of masterful shots by Okker and mistakes by Ashe allowed the Dutchman to even the match at one set apiece. Okker rode that success in the first game of the third set before Ashe stomped that out with cross-court forehand service returns. Okker only came close to breaking Ashe, the Sun reported, in the 23rd game, when the U.

He also soon joined Jackie Robinson and others in a statement urging the United States Olympic Committee to support a continued ban on South Africa's participation in the Olympics. Although the Army reprimanded him for giving the Washington speech, he noted in his autobiography, Off the Court , that "I gradually admitted to myself that I had a strange sense of satisfaction for speaking out In , after completing his tour of active duty with the Army, Ashe turned professional. That year, he applied for a visa to play in South Africa and was rejected. At the same time, he also began a business association, which would continue for the rest of his life, with his friend and Davis Cup captain, attorney Donald Dell, and Dell's management company ProServ.

Soon after, he toured Africa giving tennis exhibitions, however, his visa application to South Africa was again denied. He later wrote that "from the early s, I consciously made South Africa the focus of my political energies inside and outside the United States". As a result of its racial policies, particularly the denial of a visa to Ashe, in March , the Davis Cup nations banned South Africa from Davis Cup play for the next two years. In , Ashe was finally granted a visa and, after consulting with a number of political and cultural leaders, decided to make the trip.

He became the first black professional to play in the South African national championships, reaching the singles finals and winning the doubles title with Okker in a stadium where tickets in previously segregated sections were distributed to nonwhites, according to an agreement that Ashe had reached with South African tennis officials. He hoped that the policies of apartheid were beginning to loosen and that the lines of communication could be kept open. In , Ashe joined the board of directors of a new players' union, the Association of Tennis Professionals ATP , and participated in its boycott of Wimbledon the following year to protest what the players viewed as the reactionary rules of the ILTF.

He also served as ATP president in , as the organization prospered from the growing popularity of tennis which resulted in an increase in tournaments and prize money. He remained on the board until In , Ashe upset Jimmy Connors to win at Wimbledon, and was again ranked number one. He continued to speak out against apartheid and worked with his friend, Representative later Ambassador Andrew Young, to raise funds to bring black South Africans to the United States to attend college. After the Soweto uprising and Olympic boycott by other African nations, he vowed not to return to South Africa until the government made significant changes in its policies.

On February 20, , Ashe married Jeanne Moutoussamy, a photographer whom he had met at a benefit for the United Negro College Fund four months earlier. The ceremony was performed by Andrew Young. After missing much of the season with injuries and seeing his ranking plummet, Ashe regained his form and planned to play for at least several more years. However, while taking part in a tennis clinic in New York he suffered a heart attack in July , and underwent quadruple bypass surgery that December. After suffering chest pains while jogging a few months later, he retired from competitive tennis in April Ashe was named captain of the United States Davis Cup team in September and served in that position for five years.

His teams won the cup in and In June , he had a second bypass operation. Following his retirement from competitive tennis in , Ashe became involved in a host of projects and activities. He had already written one book, Portrait in Motion with Frank Deford in , a diary of his experiences over the course of a year on the tennis tour. That year, he also became national campaign chairman to raise funds for the American Heart Association. From the late s, Ashe had served as a consultant for the Aetna Life and Casualty Company, then sponsor of the World Cup tennis competition, and in he joined the board of directors.

He found this work "fascinating and satisfying", as it involved him with issues of health, finance and diversity. That same year, continuing his anti-apartheid work, he founded Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid with Harry Belafonte to persuade other athletes and performing artists to boycott South Africa. Along with others, he was arrested during an anti-apartheid protest outside the South African embassy in January Ashe also served as a television commentator for HBO and ABC and continued a column in the Washington Post , begun in , writing about racism in sports and society, athletes and education, apartheid, and many other subjects.

Ashe became a father in with the arrival of his daughter Camera. He continued his work on A Hard Road to Glory and adapted it for a television documentary, winning a Sports Emmy for writing. The three-volume study was published in He maintained his involvement in junior tennis and player development as a member of USTA committees, as well as in anti-apartheid activities, particularly as a board member of TransAfrica, a lobbying and research group on African affairs, headed by his childhood friend Randall Robinson.

That program was followed by the Athlete-Career Connection to increase graduation rates of minority students and the Safe Passage Foundation, which absorbed the ABC Tennis program in In September , after Ashe had experienced symptoms of weakness and numbness, tests revealed that he was HIV-positive. Ashe and his doctors believed that transfused blood he had received in order to shore up his strength after his second bypass surgery in was the cause of the disease. He made the decision to keep the news of his illness confidential except for his family and a few close friends believing that his health was "no one's legitimate concern except my own".

He continued his writing and lecturing, business ventures, and travels, revising A Hard Road to Glory and participating in an October tour of South Africa as part of a member delegation of prominent African Americans invited by Nelson Mandela. By April , editors at USA Today had heard rumors concerning Ashe's health and intended to publish a story if the rumors could be confirmed. Although at first angry at the invasion of his privacy, he soon became active in the fight against AIDS, raising funds and speaking throughout the country to increase public awareness.

He was also arrested again for his political activities, in front of the White House protesting the Bush administration's treatment of Haitian refugees. In the months prior to his death, he continued to receive awards for his work and was named Sports Illustrated 's Sportsman of the Year. With scholar Arnold Rampersad, he began work on an autobiography, Days of Grace: A Memoir , completed days before his death. His impact on the lives of others, as an athlete, author and activist was reflected in the many posthumous tributes he received, including honorary degrees from Yale, Columbia, New York University, Amherst, and Haverford, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Three years after his death, a statue of Ashe was unveiled on Richmond's Monument Avenue, in sharp contrast to the statues of Confederate war heroes which lined the avenue. He is surrounded by children, holding a tennis racquet in one hand and books in the other. The Arthur Ashe Papers document the wide range of Ashe's political, athletic, business, and philanthropic activities. They are arranged in 13 series and 8 sub-series. Series contains material documenting various aspects of Ashe's life including biographical information, invitations and programs, his honorable discharge from the Army, records of his trips to South Africa in and , and information regarding his arrest in a demonstration supporting Haitian refugees and final illness.

The biographical file contains genealogical material, profiles, and resumes listing Ashe's vital statistics, career highlights, awards, and other activities. Of note is a letter to tennis officials from his coach, Dr. Walter Johnson, which describes in detail the roadblocks he encountered in trying to enter the year old Ashe in a tournament at the Congressional Country Club in Washington, D.

There are also miscellaneous funeral programs, including that of Martin Luther King Jr. The South Africa sub-series contains manuscript and printed matter maintained by Ashe to document his and trips. The correspondence includes responses from political and cultural leaders to Ashe's request for their opinion as to the conditions under which he should visit South Africa in once he was granted a visa.

They include Rep. Barbara Jordan, Rep. There are also numerous clippings from the South African and American press covering the trips, as well as background reading material. Also of note are copies of poems by Don Mattera, a banned poet and journalist, given to Ashe in Johannesburg. Additional clippings may be found in the Scrapbooks series. The Haitian refugee demonstration folder contains a copy of the form releasing Ashe from custody, newspaper clippings, and correspondence thanking him for his participation.

The folder on his final illness includes a memorandum asking his assistant to postpone appointments and reflecting Ashe's optimism that he will recover, a few notes scribbled during his last hospital stay, and invitations to events he was planning to attend, such as the Riddick Bowe-Michael Dokes championship fight which occurred on the day he died. Series consists almost entirely of incoming letters, cards, telegrams, and faxes. The General Correspondence sub-series extends from , when Ashe won the United States Open, until his death in Due to his extensive travel schedule, particularly while playing competitive tennis prior to , there are only a few individuals with whom Ashe carried on a substantive correspondence of more than one or two letters.

These are foldered by individual name and include his lawyer and agent, Donald Dell, and Dell's onetime partner, Frank H. Craighill 3rd, who discuss business and financial matters including the break-up of their law and management firm and give Ashe encouragement with tennis matches and health problems; British tennis legend and peace activist Henry "Bunny" Austin, who comments on subjects ranging from tennis to political events in Britain, Africa, and the Middle East; tennis champion Stan Smith; tennis official Robert A.

Briner; sportswriter Frank Deford; and business executive and tennis supporter Joseph F. Cullman 3rd. The remainder of the General Correspondence sub-series is organized chronologically. It covers a wide variety of subjects, including Ashe's political activities, Davis Cup captaincy, business ventures, requests and acknowledgements for personal appearances, congratulations for victories won and awards received, and his illnesses. Ashe's correspondents include world figures, relatives, friends, fans, and admirers, such as Rev.

Martin Luther King Jr. Correspondence concerning his earliest trips to South Africa in and was maintained separately by Ashe along with related printed material and is found in the Personal Papers series. The earliest correspondence, in , contains a number of telegrams congratulating Ashe on his victory at the U. Open championships and a letter from Rev. The good wishes from friends after Ashe's first heart attack in include a long letter from fellow player Erik Van Dillen concerning life beyond tennis. Sargent Shriver, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, and other Kennedy family members thank him for his financial support and other encouragement in the and presidential campaigns and various charitable endeavors.

In the s, letters discuss apartheid in South Africa and whether athletes should compete there, including ones from American golfer Jack Nicklaus and Canadian businessman John R. A letter from Prof. Additional material relating to Harry Edwards may be found in the National Organization on the Status of Minorities in Sports folder in the Organizations and Boards series.

Edwards chaired the organization and Ashe served on its Executive Board. Other correspondents include students discussing Ashe's influence on them, tennis officials and personalities writing to Ashe regarding tennis politics and Davis Cup matters, and numerous well-wishers following his heart surgeries. Letters in the s contain requests for appearances, interviews, and speaking engagements, as well as encouragement sent by many friends and fans during Ashe's illnesses both before and after his AIDS announcement.

Walter Johnson's son Robert criticizes some of Ashe's statements in interviews about their youth in Richmond. There are also numerous congratulations following Ashe's selection as Sports Illustrated 's Sportsman of the Year. Series, arranged chronologically beginning in , encompasses notes and drafts for Ashe's numerous speeches, as well as correspondence and programs related to these events.

Ashe spoke at a number of commencement ceremonies, often as the recipient of an honorary degree. He also delivered remarks at sports dinners, conferences, business forums, and other occasions, such as Martin Luther King Day or Black History Month. Most of his speeches are written out in manuscript form or typed, although some appear in note form, jotted down on the event program. Significant topics on which Ashe spoke include the state of intercollegiate athletics, apartheid, healthcare, the challenges of growing up in segregated Richmond and competing in the largely white tennis world, and AIDS.

A number of speeches in the series were delivered during Ashe's final year, after he revealed that he had AIDS and became active in increasing public awareness of the disease and fundraising for research. Also included in the series is the statement Ashe read at the April 8, press conference announcing he had AIDS, a statement by Mayor David Dinkins, lists of media present on that occasion, requests for interviews, and the telephone message received by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe the day before asking her to return home to help Ashe address the rumors of his illness which were about to become public.

Among the significant material contained in the series are edited and unedited transcriptions of twelve interviews with co-author Arnold Rampersad in preparation for his autobiography, Days of Grace: A Memoir. The interviews in the Days of Grace: A Memoir sub-series cover the wide range of topics addressed by Ashe in the book: his childhood and early tennis career in segregated Richmond; experiences throughout the world as a tennis champion and Davis Cup captain; views on politics, apartheid, race, and the personalities of the day; his efforts to mentor African-American athletes; his family; business ventures; and final struggle with AIDS.

Also included is a transcription of a tape made by Ashe in September , during a period of hospitalization following a second heart attack. He talks in detail about his medical treatment, the healthcare system, Haitian refugee crisis, and Clinton presidential campaign. There is also an extensive discussion of his love of music and art. The sub-series also includes drafts, edited by Ashe and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, and galleys of the book.

The Letter of the Black Ashe: Sacred Community - Outrageous & Inscrutable

The Writings series also includes drafts of Ashe's column in the Washington Post , written from until his death on subjects of great concern to Ashe, including racism in sports and society, athletes and education, and apartheid, among others. In addition, there is material relating to the publication of Daddy and Me , portraying Ashe and his daughter Camera as they supported each other in the face of AIDS, with photographs and text by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe. Included are drafts of text and layout, correspondence with editors, and printed publicity material.

Galleys may be found in the Oversized box at the end of the collection. There is no material documenting his first autobiography, Portrait in Motion , written with Frank Deford. The Arthur Ashe on Tennis folder contains only a proposal for the book from co-author Alexander McNab and a partial handwritten draft by Ashe for the section which concerned his relationship with John McEnroe. Miscellaneous magazine articles written by Ashe over the years concern tennis, his health, and race and sports. There is also a fragment of a journal in which he discusses his feelings about his AIDS diagnosis, his treatment, and his family.

Series documents Ashe's service on boards of directors, committees, and advisory panels concerned with causes that he championed, such as anti-apartheid activities, efforts to develop tennis players from impoverished urban areas, increasing college graduation rates of black athletes, and AIDS research and outreach. The records of these organizations comprise correspondence with Ashe regarding his board and committee work, memoranda, reports, clippings, pamphlets, and notes of meetings.

There is little material documenting Ashe's long service on the board and as president of the Association of Tennis Professionals ATP , although there is correspondence and clippings during his last year, , concerning a lawsuit against the ATP by the World Championship Tennis tour WCT and a disciplinary matter involving Ashe's friend, Yannick Noah. Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid, founded by Ashe and Harry Belafonte in , includes a memorandum concerning strategy for its boycott of South Africa, as well as pamphlets and clippings.

The Letter Black - Best Of Me

The African American Athletic Association material comprises correspondence, reports, and notes by Ashe for conferences and workshops organized to mentor high school athletes, as well as correspondence with Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe concerning fundraising efforts after his death. The TransAfrica folders contain correspondence and printed material about Ashe's trip as a member of a delegation to South Africa in Of particular interest are notes kept by Ashe during the trip regarding meetings he attended and people he met, among them Nelson Mandela.

There is also a draft of a letter, written shortly before Ashe died, to African National Congress official Thabo Mbeki regretting that he could not travel again to South Africa and briefly commenting on apartheid and Haiti. Series documents a range of projects with which Ashe was associated, although not as a formal board or committee member, after he retired from competitive tennis in Notes, correspondence, memoranda, and draft contracts trace the planning of several joint ventures with the publishers of Black Enterprise , such as the creation of a series of instructional tennis videos for the African-American community.

Ashe also investigated the possibility of supporting a bookstore to sell the work of black authors. Included in the series are articles and correspondence suggesting projects that friends and the public wished Ashe to participate in or lend his name to, but which were not ultimately undertaken.

At the same time, Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale offered to create a statue of Ashe to be placed in front of the proposed building. Fundraising for the Hall of Fame and statue continued after Ashe's death. Although the Hall of Fame project was eventually abandoned, planning for a statue to be placed on Monument Avenue continued. Correspondence, memoranda, sketches, and clippings, including Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe's January 1, op-ed article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch , trace the debates concerning the Hall of Fame idea and the location of the statue.

Blueprints of the statue may be found in the Oversized box at the end of the collection. Ashe was named captain of the United States Davis Cup team in September and served through five annual campaigns until his resignation following the matches. The bulk of the Davis Cup Captaincy, , series has been retained in the order established by Ashe, by year and opponent, and includes correspondence, clippings, and programs.

The series also includes additional general correspondence, drawsheets, forms, schedules, financial statements, and agreements. The material documents the excitement of Ashe and his supporters during the first two years of his captaincy as the team won the Cup and the challenges of the last three years when it lost. It also reflects the generational changes taking place in the tennis world. Of particular interest are the articles and correspondence criticizing the sportsmanship of team members Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe during a number of matches, especially the final against Sweden, and the subsequent debates among tennis officials over whether to institute an official code of conduct.

Additional letters congratulating Ashe on his appointment as captain or commenting on his resignation may be found in the General Correspondence sub-series of the Correspondence series. Series includes contracts and agreements with companies, such as Head and Le Coq Sportif, for product endorsements, as well as for appearances as a television commentator on HBO and ABC. There is also correspondence with Ashe's agent, ProServ Management, headed by Donald Dell, and financial statements, reports, and minutes pertaining to investments in tennis clubs, properties, and tournament rights in connection with Ashe's participation in Players Enterprises Inc.

PEI , a corporation organized by Dell into which Ashe and other players contributed prize money and received income and benefits. Series includes the programs for memorial services conducted for Ashe in Richmond and New York City, correspondence related to memorial service arrangements, a letter and poem by Gordon Parks read at the New York service, and a prayer memorial by Ashe's friend Rev.

Jefferson P. It also includes assorted condolence cards and letters from fans, friends, and schoolchildren.

After an oppressive two weeks, the US Open looks toward a hotter future

The condolence letters and cards are only a sampling of those sent to the Ashe family and do not reflect the large volume of letters ultimately received. Series consists of certificates, honorary degrees, proclamations, citations, programs, and invitations honoring Ashe in the years following his retirement from competitive tennis. It also includes correspondence, brochures, newsletters, invitations, speeches, citations, and certificates documenting tributes to Ashe and events held in his honor after his death in Oversized certificates and proclamations, including Ashe's Sports Emmy award, are located in the Oversized box at the end of the collection.


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  7. Contain topics of interest to Ashe. These include reference files used by Ashe for researching and writing speeches and articles, as well as other subjects of interest to him, such as race and education, particularly concerning athletes, race and economics, AIDS treatments, and privacy and ethics in the media. Additional files have been created to include clippings and other printed material collected by Ashe about noted personalities, including Virginia governor L.

    Douglas Wilder, Malcolm X, and Rev. Howard Thurman. Series includes a General sub-series of magazine articles and clippings about Ashe from both the American and foreign media documenting his career as a professional tennis player, particularly his major championships, as well as his activities as a writer and activist.

    A third sub-series contains obituaries and articles related to Ashe's legacy in the ten years following his death. A Wimbledon program, an unassembled Wheaties box featuring Ashe and other advertisements are filed in the Oversized box at the end of the collection. There are five scrapbooks in the Scrapbooks, , series.

    Assembled by friends and fans, three were created to document Ashe's tennis achievements. They contain clippings, photographs, programs, and memorabilia covering the years, , , and The other two scrapbooks contain clippings from the South African press documenting his trip there. The item s listed below have been sent to the division indicated, either to be retained or disposed of there. Any items that should receive special disposition are clearly marked. Subseries contains letters, cards, and faxes from friends, fans, schoolchildren, and public figures wishing him well, offering encouragement and suggestions for treatment, and decrying the role of the media in revealing his illness to the public in April Old friends, such as Clarence Hagins and Bob Watson, reminisce about shared experiences and travels.

    South African golfer Gary Player refers to his and Ashe's past disagreements regarding apartheid. Childhood friend, USA Today sportswriter Doug Smith, discusses his role in first confronting Ashe with the rumors concerning his illness prior to the public announcement. Some greeting cards from schoolchildren can be found in the Oversized box at the end of the collection.

    The research material is comprised primarily of articles and clippings from the African-American and mainstream press. However, it also includes programs containing historical background information, such as the 50th anniversary of the Harlem Globetrotters, the 50th anniversary of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Hampton-Virginia Union football game, and Negro Leagues reunions, and the opening of the Major Taylor cycling velodrome, as well as yearbooks and rosters, research notes, a few replies to questionnaires from football players in the s and s, and correspondence concerning Alain Locke as a rower while at Oxford.

    This material is organized by individual sports, including boxing, horse racing, cycling, track and field, baseball, football, basketball, tennis, golf, wrestling, and Olympic sports. The tennis folders are among the most extensive, including correspondence about players, printed material, and research notes, particularly concerning the career of Richard Hudlin, Ashe's coach and mentor. Additional material documents sports in which fewer African Americans have participated, such as lacrosse, ice hockey, crew, rodeo, swimming, soccer, and auto racing. The sub-series also contains Ashe's original book proposal, handwritten and typed notes, lists of sources, chronologies, transcripts of interviews, and copies of scholarly articles and manuscripts collected by Ashe and his research assistants.

    The correspondents include research assistants, manuscript readers, team and college officials, and the public, which offered leads after the initial publicity for Ashe's project and the appearance of his author's queries in newspapers seeking information. The publishing history may be traced through correspondence with publishers, contracts, permission forms, sales figures, and printed and promotional material.

    The drafts for A Hard Road to Glory trace the development of the book. They comprise Ashe's original handwritten and typed manuscripts in a linear narrative style; typed drafts of the manuscript after he reorganized it by individual sport into volumes I , II , and III ; and the final copy-edited drafts. Much of volume III was written after Ashe reorganized the manuscript chronologically and by sport. Therefore, little of the material contained in volume III is found in the early drafts. The drafts also contain lengthy appendices listing individual and athletic conference champions in all sports.

    Ashe placed the conference material at the end of volume II regardless of its actual time period in order to locate it all in one place. Some draft appendices marked "vol. III" were later moved to volume II. The sub-series also contains page proofs, which do not include some of the appendices, and galleys. E Contact. D Digitized.

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    Arthur Ashe archive. Please check the collection records in the NYPL's online catalog for detailed location information. Scope and arrangement The Arthur Ashe Papers document the wide range of Ashe's political, athletic, business, and philanthropic activities. The Arthur Ashe archive is arranged in sixteen series: Personal Papers. Processing information Processed with a grant from the Arthur Ashe Foundation. Christine McKay, January 25,



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