1975 : Arthur Ashe Forever

Aug 7, 2023, 5:09:34 PM

Arthur Ashe, the first-ever black winner of a Grand Slam tournament

On 5 July 1975, Arthur Ashe became the first black player to win the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. In 2021, in a CNN documentary called Citizen Ashe, he said: “I have played  extraordinary matches under unbelievable circumstances, but Wimbledon tied my whole life together.” He had become the player he wanted to be, i.e., a champion who could translate his tennis fame into activism. Ashe created the National Junior Tennis and Learning League –an association that gave tennis classes to underprivileged American children– in 1969. He became the first-ever black player to play tournaments in South Africa in 1973. Despite the system of apartheid, he was granted the right to play in front of an unsegregated crowd, with white and non-white people sitting next to each other. But it took him time to become an activist. “All around me, I saw these athletes stepping out in front trying to  demand civil rights. But I was still with mixed emotions,” he said  in an interview in Citizen Ashe. “There really were times when I felt that maybe I was a coward for not doing certain things, by not joining this protest or whatever.” The turning point of his struggle for civil rights came on 4 April 1968, when Martin Luther King was assassinated. “I was very angry. I also felt slightly helpless. Being a Black American, I felt a sense of urgency that I want to do something.”