Read Ashe's contemporaneous comments about what happened in Jet Magazine here.
In 1976, World Championship Tennis introduced a new tournament in Lagos, Nigeria, the first pro tournament in Black Africa. Unfortunately, the timing coincided with a devastating political assassination and attempted coup d'état. Arthur Ashe, along with other players such as Jeff Borowiak, Bob Lutz, Tom Okker, Stan Smith, and Dick Stockton there to compete in the tournament, found themselves in the middle of much more than they had bargained for. Read Olaojo Aiyegbayo's account of how events unfurled here.
Read Ashe's contemporaneous comments about what happened in Jet Magazine here.
Not so long ago in South Africa, harsh discrimination was used to rule and segregate the country. This was during Apartheid and that gloomy period sparked a socially conscious response from all corners of the world. It also lead to one of the greatest examples of sports activism just over 40 years ago.
To expose the fallacies of Apartheid and serve as a beacon of hope, Arthur Ashe traveled to South Africa in 1973 to break the color barrier that existed there in tennis. He served as an example of genuine sportsmanship: compelling the stadium to be integrated when he competed, showing the subjugated populations that a black man could compete with the white man and using his popularity as a platform for awareness against the government's discriminatory practices.
Read more about his experience in Steve Tignor's article "1973: Arthur Ashe breaks sporting color barrier in South Africa" on Tennis.com.
"When I was a child of 4 or 5, listening to the conversation of my mother and her sisters, I would sometimes intrude on their territory with a solemnly stated opinion that would jerk their heads in my direction, then send them into roars of uncontrollable laughter. I do not now remember anything I said. But the first adult who caught her breath would speak for them all and say, 'That's no child. That's a little sawed-off woman. ' That was to become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
— Dorothy West, Essence Magazine, August 1995
Born June 2, 1907 in Boston, Dorothy West was an independent, female writer whose career spanned eight decades. Her father, Isaac Christopher West was an emancipated slave who became a successful businessman. She wrote her first story at age 7, having been inspired by reading her aunt’s issues of the NAACP’s magazine Crisis. At age 19 she entered her story “The Typewriter” in a fiction contest sponsored by the National Urban League’s journal Opportunity and tied for second place with Zora Neale Hurston, with whom she would later share an apartment. This accomplishment encouraged her to move to Harlem with her cousin Helen Johnson, a poet, that same year in 1926. Meeting many members of the Harlem Renaissance and being the youngest, she earned the nickname “the Kid” from Langston Hughes. She published other short stories during this time and also went on a trip in 1932 to the Soviet Union with Hughes and 31 other prominent African-Americans. The goal was to make a movie about racism in America. West stayed in the Soviet Union a year, however it was never made. She returned to the U.S. when her father died.
Upon her return, West founded Challenge magazine in 1934 as a publication dedicated to creative writing and social and political issues—an attempt to recapture the spirit and intellectual vibrance of the then fading Harlem Renaissance. She published five issues, which included works by Hughes, West, Hurston, Countee Cullen and others. It failed due to lack of financing, in part because of the Depression. In 1937, Richard Wright worked with her to found New Challenge, a publication with similar intentions to Challenge, which lasted briefly.
After her magazine foundered, she worked for WPA Federal Writers Project and wrote articles for the New York Daily News. In the 1940s she moved to Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, finishing her first novel, The Living Is Easy, in 1948. West’s novel was set among Boston’s black middle class, with some of the characters drawn from her own family members, particularly her mother and father. It follows the life of Cleo Judson, a pretty girl who grows up in North Carolina and is sent to Boston. She ends up marrying a successful merchant and raising a family, but in the end her husband’s business fails and he leaves for New York to start over.
As Carl Milton Hughes states, it shows “the Negro world in isolation with separateness of races a matter of course” (The Negro Novelist 1940-1950, p. 115). This is not to say that race plays no part—Cleo has a color complex about the darkness of skin which features prominently—but Cleo’s focus is on social and economic striving. Often referred to as a “predatory woman” (Hughes, p. 123), Cleo is a social climber mimicking the values of white society. However, while satirizing the machinations of the black upper class, West sincerely expresses the frustration of societal female limitations. Cleo’s struggle with gendered expectations of her produce “spiritual suffering and immeasurable frustration” (West, p. 22). She remains unhappy through most of the book. West chooses to center this work on the difficulties of being a woman in society instead of around the difficulties of being black. Through the character of Cleo, West “speaks to our patriarchal society…emphasizing the need to expand and blur the boundaries and categories of male/female and masculine/feminine” (Sanders, p. 446). West said later in life, ''I'm not a black with a chip on my shoulder.''
After The Living Is Easy came out, she continued to write for the local paper on the island, the Vineyard Gazette, as a columnist. In 1982, The Living Is Easy was brought back into print by the Feminist Press, which renewed public attention to her work and her interest in completing a second novel. Through her residence on Martha’s Vineyard, she became close friends with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who was working as an editor for Doubleday. Having read West’s work, she helped West secure a book deal and publish her second novel, The Wedding, when West was 85 (Onassis died shortly before the book was released).
The Wedding is about a black woman, Shelby Cole, who is ambivalent about her upcoming marriage to a white jazz musician, set in the insular, black bourgeoisie community of “the Oval” on Martha’s Vineyard in 1953. Social status, wealth, race and heritage are all inextricably linked in the neighborhood of the Oval. Shelby is choosing whether to “wrest her life away from the Oval’s control” by marrying her musician which “will require a remapping of the racist episteme and a reauthoring of her identity.” (Muther, p. 194). West readily engages ideas about class and race; however, it is all refracted through the prism of gender. Shelby’s prospects, her freedom or continuing and familiar comfort, are subject to whom she marries. Her future will ultimately be realized through her taking on the role of wife. Perhaps unsurprisingly, West herself never married, once remarking to the Boston Globe that “Seemed like the man just became the woman’s child.”
After the positive critical reception for The Wedding, West published a collection of short stories and essays entitled The Richer, the Poorer the following year. Toward the end of her life, she was frequently referred to as the last living member of the Harlem Renaissance. However, she has not enjoyed the literary prominence of other black authors, as Tamara Jenelle Williamson notes:
In Harlem Renaissance discussions, she is overshadowed by such heavyweights as Hurston, Larsen, Fauset, and Langston Hughes. In 1940s literature, when she published short stories and her novel The Living Is Easy, she is overshadowed by Richard Wright’s Native Son. In the 1990s, when The Wedding and The Richer, the Poorer were published, West was overshadowed by the literary juggernaut of Toni Morrison.
West passed away in 1998 at age 91. Oprah and Harpo Productions created a two-part miniseries of The Wedding, which was broadcast that same year.
Selected works by Dorothy West:
Selected works about Dorothy West:
Willard Francis Motley was born in Chicago in 1909, a city that reverberated throughout his entire life, even after he left the country. He was raised with painter Archibald Motley, Jr., who was treated as his brother although he was in fact his uncle. His writing career began very young when he started writing “Bud Says” for the Chicago Defender, a paper where Langston Hughes had written in previous years. However, he wrote the column under the moniker Bud Billiken, the name which the founder of the paper, Robert Abbott, came up with to create a section targeted toward youth. Motley wrote the column from 1922- 1924, after which “Bud Says” continued to be written by several authors successively.
After traveling for a period after he finished school, he returned to Chicago and helped found the Hull-House Magazine in 1939. This was a project of Jane Addam’s Hull House, a settlement house that provided social and educational opportunities to the working class, particularly European immigrants. He wrote articles for the publication using fragmented descriptions to paint a vivid picture of his (and the Hull House) neighborhood, such as “This is the street of noises, of odors, of colors….from Africa to Mexico one block; from Mexico to Italy two blocks; from Italy to Greece three blocks…” (Motley, “Pavement Portraits,” The Hull-House Magazine 1, no. 2 (December 1939) p. 2) The influence of this neighborhood and experience would be reflected later in his novels. In 1940, like many of the African-American authors of this time, he worked for the Works Progress Administration Federal Writers Project. Around this time he also became more politically active, becoming a conscientious objector to the war because of segregation in the U.S. military.
In 1947 he released Knock on Any Door, his first novel and an immediate hit. It sold selling 47,000 copies in the first three weeks and became a 1949 movie starring Humphrey Bogart. The story revolves around a young man, Nick Romano, who starts off as a studious kid but after family misfortune (his father loses his job and they are forced to move to a slum) and misunderstandings (he is punished for a crime he does not commit), eventually kills a cop and is then sentenced to death and executed. Like Wright’s Native Son, his character commits a crime but is also shown to be the victims of the circumstances he is born into, primarily poverty. During the eight years of Nick’s life that the book follows, he is subjected to social, institutional and psychological blows that provide the percussive drum roll of the inexorable march toward his death at 21. Nick famously says, “Live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse.”
Interestingly, the protagonist is an Italian-American and much of it is set in an Italian immigrant community in Chicago. This is unlike many other black authors of the time who set out to present some aspect of the African-American experience. When criticized about his choice to write about white characters, Motley responded “My race is the human race.” This choice certainly aligns with his earlier pieces, such as the “Pavement Portraits” where he spends much of the article discussing the Mexican community.
We Fished All Night was the follow up to Knock on Any Door, released in 1951 and widely panned. It focused on three men who are all brutalized and suffer against the backdrop of tenements, prostitution, and the corrupt Chicago political machine. After this disappointment, Motley moved to Mexico. His third novel Let No Man Write My Epitaph, continues the story of Knock on Any Door. The story is about Nick’s illegitimate son and is again set in Chicago, but is more optimistic. Like both of his previous books, it does not focus on race. It was turned into a movie released in 1960, featuring songs by Ella Fitzgerald.
He died in 1965 in Mexico City. The unfinished Let Noon Be Fair was published posthumously in 1966. As the 2013 Chicago Literary Hall of Fame awards stated, “Motley was criticized in his life for being a black man writing about white characters, a middle-class man writing about the lower class, and a closeted homosexual writing about heterosexual urges. But those more kindly disposed to his work, and there were plenty, admired his grit and heart....Chicago was more complicated than just its racial or sexual tensions, and as a writer his exploration was expansive.”* To this day, Chicago annually holds the Bud Billiken Day Parade, the oldest and largest African American parade in the country, dedicated toward bettering Chicago youth.
Selected works by Willard Motley:
Selected works about Willard Motley:
In the current issue of Inside Tennis Magazine, Bill Simons sits down one-on-one with Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe to discuss her first impressions of Arthur Ashe, what he was like as a person, the breadth of his activism, as well as her own work over the years producing fine art photography and promoting his legacy. The extensive interview features little known anecdotes spanning tennis, Arthur's spirituality, his political hopes, the first time he met Nelson Mandela and more.
You can read it here: Inside Tennis Magazine
In the introduction to Arthur Ashe: Portrait in Motion, in 1974 Arthur wrote “In this year, I played on five continents, made 129 airplane trips, slept in 71 different beds and traveled 165,000 miles.”
Starting in January all the way through November, the professional tennis tour sends players crisscrossing the globe many times over. Travel is the norm for professional tennis players and even though much about the tennis circuit has changed in the 35 years since he wrote that, travel remains a constant.
With more than 50 tournaments on the WTA Tour and 60 on the ATP tour that are located in such diverse locales as Dubai, Rotterdam, Basel, Acapulco, Istanbul and Beijing, there is certainly significant travel involved. In fact, Flavia Pennetta, in a recent interview for the WTA, joked that because of switching hotels so frequently, she sometimes forgets her room number.
Despite visiting so many amazing cities though, often times players barely get a chance to look around. Most players have noted that there is not that much time to sightsee, and that mostly they see the hotel, the courts and the airport. Ana Ivanovic said in a 2009 interview that even though, “most of what we see is the tennis club and the hotel—I try to stay a couple days extra and visit. For example, when I was in China, it was great to go to the Great Wall of China, Summer Palace, and the Forbidden City.”
We recently spoke with Cliff Richey about his time traveling on the tennis circuit. Over the course of his pro tennis career he collected more than 45 tournament titles, not to mention his MVP performance on the victorious 1970 American Davis Cup team.
How many places and countries did you visit through tennis?
I never visited any of the Iron Curtain countries because of the Cold War, but all of the major countries of Western Europe. I also went all over South America, the Caribbean, Asia. South Africa and Namibia were really the only places in Africa.
What were your favorite and least favorite courts to play on, in terms of the facilities and atmosphere?
One of my least favorite was the old court in Cleveland, OH. At the time, that stadium was a good distance away from the court, it wasn’t enclosed at all and it felt like were playing on a football field. Another one was Rome, for much the same reason. It had lots of excess room around the court, so your perception is different and it’s hard to orient yourself on the court. One of my favorites is the old Forest Hills stadium, where they used to hold the U.S. Open. I liked that it was intimate. When playing there I felt very protected and enclosed. Also, I prefer the surface there. American clay—or Har-Tru—was always my favorite surface to compete on, followed by European clay.
What do you see as the biggest changes between when you were on the tour and now?
Mainly, everything has gotten bigger, and better in every way. Arenas and facilities now are tremendous: when I used to play Cincinatti, the stands used to be 600 or 800 people. Last month I was there, and it’s a 12,000-person arena! Nowadays, there’s much more attention, more TV coverage. I always wanted the sport to get more notice and love that the game has grown: I think the players are better athletes, I think some of the techniques have gotten better in many ways. Also for the players, the money is better so they don’t have to play as many events now. I used to play 26-36 tournaments a year, cause it was the only way to support yourself.
What were the difficulties of such a nomadic lifestyle?
Well, I’d play so many weeks in a row, that I’d wake up and not know where I was. But I mean, I loved the travel, and I still like to travel. It really was a privilege to see the world—it could seem like a chore at times—but you still recognize that it’s a privilege that very few people get to do. You don’t see as much as you like, but sometimes, amazing things happen.
One year I had just finished a book by Dr. Christiaan Barnard, the South African doctor who performed the first successful heart transplant, while I was traveling to South Africa. I was in Johannesburg and during a match I was look up and see him in the VIP section. Normally, I would not have recognized this guy, but having just finished his book, which was fascinating, I had many questions and wanted to talk to him. So once I got off the court, I found him and asked him all about the book. Since he had a tremendous ego, he was more than happy to talk with me and actually ended up inviting my wife and me to come stay with him and his wife in Cape Town so they could show us around. I asked at the tennis club, and had some days off so we decided to go. Apparently, he had a habit of meeting people and then inviting then to come visit and then sending his assistant to come pick them up from the airport. Apparently the assistant was not happy about this, so he told me to pretend I was a medical student coming to check out the program. Well almost immediately, after his assistant asked me a few questions, it became quite clear that I knew nothing about medicine and was not in medical school. But still, I had a wonderful time. My wife and I got scrubbed down and got to watch a live open heart surgery on a young boy who had a hole in heart, right in front of us, up close. They didn’t even have a glass partitioning the area back then. The experience was very special.
To hear more about his travel experiences and life in tennis, check out Cliff Richey’s book, Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion's Toughest Match, available in bookstores and at online retailers.
Arthur’s love for travel began as a young boy when he discovered National Geographic magazine. Reading through those became the foundation for his desire to travel. It was tennis that gave him that opportunity.
When he began playing tournaments and Davis Cup as an amateur, he only received small stipends to cover expenses. But for him, the reward of playing AND winning during this period was travel.
Visiting countries all over the world is one of the privileges of being on the tennis tour. This month, we talk a little about the ATP and WTA tours. You will also find an interview with Arthur’s colleague Cliff Richey about his time on the tour in the 60s, 70s and 80s, plus a review of Jan Kodes’ new book that demonstrates how tennis can open up the world, particularly from behind the Iron Curtain. Starting this month and continuing thereafter, we will be featuring the NJTL Arthur Ashe Essay and Art Contest winners and their accomplished work. Lastly, we’ve created a special feature loaded with unseen photos that Arthur and friends took all over the world while they were on tour.
So enjoy the articles and photos, and hopefully—whether it’s taking a road trip or flying across the globe—we hope you will be inspired to go see the world for yourself.
A favorite Goethe quote of Arthur’s was, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
Founder and Chairman
Arthur Ashe Learning Center
Arthur Ashe Learning Center
Inspired by Arthur Ashe’s proactive life as a conscious leader, humanitarian, educator and athlete, the Arthur Ashe Learning Center promotes his legacy to educate and motivate —with an emphasis toward inspiring youth. By vividly focusing upon the areas of education, health and wellness, citizenship and self-reliance, the AALC fosters empowerment and leadership in the individual and the community, elevating