by Akosua Lowery
“…historians had underestimated the socio-historical impact of the black athlete in black American life. But the truth is that the psychic value of success in sports was and is higher in the black community than among any other American subculture.” – The New York Times, Arthur R. Ashe, Jr.
On January 28, 1970, Arthur Ashe became the first Black male to win Wimbledon. An activist, athlete and scholar, Arthur Ashe was denied entry to compete on the U.S. tennis team for the South African Open tennis championships because of his outspoken sentiments about South Africa’s racist policies, most notably Apartheid. Ashe was the first black player ever selected for the United States’ Davis Cup team and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. He retired in 1980. Arthur Ashe died in February 1993 from complications due to AIDS, which he contracted through a blood transfusion. Forced to disclose his illness under duress, Ashe spent the rest of his days campaigning for public awareness, including a speech on the floor of the United Nations on World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. The country’s first black Governor, Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder allowed Ashe’s body to lie in state at the executive mansion in Richmond. On June 20, 1993, Ashe was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. He was married to world-renowned photographer Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe at the time of his passing.
The Akosua Report: Facts on The African Diaspora, is written by Akosua Lowery. Follow her on Twitter @AkosuaLowery.