"Arthur Ashe" explains how this iconic African American tennis
player overcame racial and class barriers to reach the top of the
tennis world in the 1960s and 1970s. But more important, it follows
Ashe's evolution as an activist who had to contend with the shift
from civil rights to Black Power. Off the court, and in the arena
of international politics, Ashe positioned himself at the center of
the black freedom movement, negotiating the poles of black
nationalism and assimilation into white society. Fiercely
independent and protective of his public image, he navigated the
thin line between conservatives and liberals, reactionaries and
radicals, the sports establishment and the black cause.
Eric Allen Hall's work examines Ashe's life as a struggle
against adversity but also a negotiation between the
comforts--perhaps requirements--of tennis-star status and the felt
obligation to protest the discriminatory barriers the white world
constructed to keep black people "in their place." Ashe lived a
peculiarly difficult moral life, the personal and political
producing exquisite conflict. White society expected him to be
grateful; black militants scolded him for not being radical enough.
He broke racial taboos by playing tennis in Dixie and in South
Africa, but he valued his privacy and shunned extremism.
Ashe forced positive change in the United States and South
Africa with an approach that borrowed from both the civil rights
and the Black Power movements. After a severe heart attack in 1979,
he stopped playing professional tennis but maintained a visible
public profile as coach of the U.S. Davis Cup team, anti-apartheid
activist, and author of "A Hard Road to Glory, " the first
published synthesis of African American sports history. A fierce
guardian of his private life, Ashe was forced to publicly
acknowledge that he was ill with AIDS--having become infected with
HIV from a blood transfusion following coronary bypass surgery in
1983. He died of the disease in 1993.
Drawing on coverage of Ashe's athletic career and social
activism in domestic and international publications, archives
including the Ashe Papers, and a variety of published memoirs and
interviews, Hall has created an intimate, nuanced portrait of a
great athlete who stood at the crossroads of sports and equal
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