When Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe broke through the seemingly solid brick wall color barrier to tennis, the earth shifted. Gibson in 1957, and Ashe in 1974. These and other athletes function in a society seemingly bereft of love for Black people is a welcome and refreshing site for sore eyes. It serves as a vitamin to nourish and propel us to achieve more. Reading about how others have made it through in spite of circumstances is inspiring. This curated list was created to provide that boost to children. There’s one adult title to provide insight for parents in raising little athletes.
I have a vague memory of meeting a very important Black male tennis figure as a child. He showed me how to hold my racket for a back handed swing. He was tall and had an afro. Though I haven’t been able to confirm if it was Authur Ashe, this figure and Blacks around the world were likely inspired by him. When researching more about Arthur Ashe’s record, I found he did have a tournament in Chicago in 1975 which makes it possible I could have met him. Based on his desire to bring tennis courts to underserved communities we have all certainly benefited from his legacy. He left an impression on the world after he won that World Championship of Tennis single title in Chicago against Robert Taylor in 1973. Unfortunately, I have no pictures or media coverage as proof of this, but I’ll hold it as perhaps a fantasy that inspired me along the way. Ashe was the first Black person to win the World Championship in Tennis in 1975 as shown in this video.
On the South side of Chicago, there is a park dedicated to Arthur Ashe located at 2701 E 74th St. According to a phone interview I had with Ms. Qae Dah Muhammad who is listed on the Chicago Park District website, the park was dedicated in 1994; one year after Ashe’s unfortunate death from AIDS he contracted from a blood transfusion. The park location happens to have an auspicious unplanned connection in that it is across the street from a building built by Ashe’s father-in-law. Ashe’s wife is named Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe. Her father, the principal architect of the Lake Terrace Condominium, was built in 1947. John Warren Moutoussamy, an African American Architect, was Ashe’s father-in-law. It is so interesting how circumstances lined up to bring a heightened awareness of the importance of this champion. Ashe was the first to make tennis courts available in underprivileged neighborhoods. Perhaps the court I remember getting some pointers from him on was there due to his initiative.
Ashe was the first African American male to win the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, the Australian Open, and Wimbledon. Finding any books on Arthur Ashe that are readily in print was hard to come by. As the first Black male to win this previously all-white dominated sport, we should have more books available on him. I recall the book he co-wrote called, “A Hard Road to Glory,” which at this point is out of print. Thankfully, the 8 part Youtube documentary also called, "A Hard Road to Glory" hosted by Ashe is available. It covers athletes from 1619 to the mid 1980’s. Though the goal of this curated list is to include titles for boys and girls, my search reveals that there’s great room for growth for more titles for boys. It is encouraging to learn that on June 24, 2020 WTVR CBS 6 announced that a biopic film on Ashe's life is in the makings.
Always believe in yourself