Who Was Arthur Ashe?

Quck answer

Arthur Ashe was a professional tennis player and social activist. He was born on July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia. Ashe became the first African American man to win a Grand Slam singles title at the US Open in 1968. Throughout his career, he won three Grand Slam titles and reached the number one ranking in the world. Ashe used his platform to advocate for civil rights and social justice. He was a vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa and worked to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS after contracting the disease himself. Ashe’s legacy extends beyond tennis, as he continues to inspire others with his achievements on and off the court.

When considering exceptional athletes, who comes to mind? Your thoughts might immediately turn to Serena or Venus Williams. Perhaps you think of Michael Jordan or Megan Rapinoe. You might imagine Usain Bolt or Jesse Owens sprinting towards the finish line. Or maybe you ponder about the tennis star who is the subject of today’s Wonder of the Day – Arthur Ashe!

Arthur Ashe was born on July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia. In 1950, his mother passed away just before he turned seven. That same year, he started playing tennis. Ashe’s talent as an athlete became evident quickly.

Ashe proceeded to break numerous barriers in the world of tennis. In 1958, he became the first African American to participate in the Maryland boys’ championships. Two years later, he enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). There, he became the first African American player on the U.S. Davis Cup team. Ashe graduated with a degree in business administration in 1966.

Was Ashe finished with tennis after college? Absolutely not! However, he did spend two years in the U.S. Army after graduating. He became a second lieutenant at West Point. Ashe also continued to play tennis during this time. He became the first African American to win the U.S. Open in 1968.

Arthur Ashe went on to secure victories in various other tournaments, including the 1970 Australian Open. In 1975, he also became the first African American man to win Wimbledon. Ashe gained significant recognition for his skill as a tennis player. Soon, he developed a reputation for his advocacy work as well.

For example, Ashe took a strong stance against South Africa’s system of Apartheid. After years of being denied entry, Ashe became the first Black person to compete in the nation’s national championships. He won the doubles title there with Tom Okker. He reached the final round of the singles before being defeated.

Ashe also aimed to help children learn tennis. He co-founded the National Junior Tennis League, which provided kids with the opportunity to play the sport. He hoped that the program would teach life skills such as discipline, in addition to tennis.

In 1977, Ashe married a photographer named Jeanne Moutoussamy. Later, the couple adopted a daughter. They named her Camera, after Moutoussamy’s profession. Ashe continued to experience success as a professional tennis player. However, in 1979, he suffered his first heart attack. After undergoing surgery and recovering, he returned to the court.

However, Ashe’s health would continue to impede his career. In 1980, he retired from tennis. Nevertheless, he remained active in his advocacy work and contributed articles to various publications, including the New York Times and Washington Post. In 1985, Arthur Ashe became the first African American man to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

In 1983, Ashe co-founded Athletes Against Apartheid. That same year, he underwent another heart surgery. He was hospitalized once again in 1988 when he was diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Ashe may have contracted HIV through a blood transfusion during his 1983 surgery.

Arthur Ashe passed away on February 6, 1993 from AIDS-related pneumonia. In his 49 years of life, he left behind a lasting impact that is still remembered today. He is revered as a role model both on and off the tennis court. He is currently honored with a monument in Richmond, Virginia, and a street was renamed after him in 2019.

Give It a Try

Are you ready to learn more? Find a friend or family member who can assist you with the following activities!

  • Are you interested in learning about other notable tennis players? Read about Serena Williams or Naomi Osaka. Do they share any similarities with Arthur Ashe? What sets them apart? Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting at least one of these tennis players with Arthur Ashe.
  • Discover more about the Arthur Ashe Boulevard Ceremony. Why do you think they decided to rename the street in honor of Ashe? Would it be an esteemed honor for you to have a street named after you? Discuss this with a friend or family member.
  • Do you enjoy playing any sports? Do you have a favorite game or activity? Ask a friend or family member to join you! Whether you head outside to play basketball or stay indoors for a card game, have fun practicing a game that you enjoy.

Sources of Wonder

  • https://www.biography.com/athlete/arthur-ashe (accessed 07 Feb. 2020)
  • https://arthurashe.ucla.edu/life-story/ (accessed 07 Feb. 2020)
  • https://www.tennisfame.com/hall-of-famers/inductees/arthur-ashe (accessed 07 Feb. 2020)
  • https://www.britannica.com/biography/Arthur-Ashe (accessed 07 Feb. 2020)


1. Who was Arthur Ashe?

Arthur Ashe was a professional tennis player and social activist. He was born on July 10, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, and passed away on February 6, 1993. Ashe is best known for breaking barriers as the first African American to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. Throughout his career, he achieved numerous accomplishments, including being ranked No. 1 in the world and winning three Grand Slam titles. Off the court, Ashe was also a prominent civil rights advocate, fighting against racial discrimination and apartheid in South Africa. His contributions to the sport and society have left a lasting legacy.

2. What were Arthur Ashe’s major tennis achievements?

Arthur Ashe had a remarkable tennis career filled with major achievements. He became the first African American to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1975, defeating Jimmy Connors in the final. He also won the US Open in 1968 and the Australian Open in 1970, making him the first African American male to win those titles as well. Ashe reached the No. 1 ranking in the world in 1968 and was known for his powerful and strategic playing style. His contributions to the sport continue to inspire aspiring tennis players to this day.

3. What was Arthur Ashe’s impact on civil rights?

Arthur Ashe was not only a tennis champion but also a dedicated civil rights activist. He used his platform and success in the sport to fight against racial discrimination and promote equality. Ashe actively spoke out against apartheid in South Africa and was arrested for protesting against it in 1985. He also advocated for increased access to tennis and sports for minority youth. Ashe believed that sports could be a powerful tool for social change and used his influence to make a positive impact on civil rights issues.

4. How is Arthur Ashe remembered today?

Arthur Ashe is remembered as a trailblazer in both the world of tennis and civil rights. His legacy continues to inspire athletes and activists around the globe. The Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS was established in his honor to raise awareness and funds for AIDS research. The US Open stadium in New York City was also named the Arthur Ashe Stadium in his memory. Ashe’s life and achievements serve as a reminder of the power of determination, courage, and advocacy in making a lasting impact on society.

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