Arthur Ashe started playing tennis when he was six years old on a segregated playground adjacent to his home in Virginia. In 1958, he became the first black US-American to play in the Maryland boys' championships which was also his first integrated tennis competition. Later, he became the first black tennis player selected to the United Statis Davis Cup team and the first and only black man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the Australian Open, and the US Open (via and via).
"In actuality, Arthur Ashe was a trailblazer for African American males in tennis every time he succeeded on the court, in much the same fashion as Althea Gibson had for African American females some 10 years earlier. The relevance of these accomplishments was not lost on Ashe. His determination to succeed despite being an outcast in a historically white sport was put to an even greater test in 1969.
In a year (1969), when he was basking in the international fame, he had gained the previous year after winning the US Open and playing a key role on the United States winning Davis Cup team, two separate issues came to the forefront and helped shape Arthur the activist, a role he never ran from throughout his life if he believed in the cause. At a time when tennis’ popularity was growing by leaps and bounds, the amount of prize money being offered to the players, the “drawing cards,” was lagging disproportionately behind. Ashe and several other players formed in 1969, what later became known as the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals). It is from this small and visionary beginning that today’s top players enjoy the large sums of prize money for which they compete. Later that year, as the #1-ranked American and one of the best players in the world, Arthur applied for a visa to play in the South African Open, a prestigious event. His visa was denied because of the color of his skin. Though Arthur was well aware that this would probably be the case, he decided to take a bold stand. His call for expulsion from South Africa from the tennis tour and Davis Cup play was quickly supported by numerous prominent individuals and organizations, both in and out of the tennis world. In effect, he raised the world’s awareness to the oppressive form of government (apartheid) of South Africa. Buoyed by Arthur Ashe’s initial efforts, blacks in South Africa slowly but surely began to see change come about in their country." (via)
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