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Arthur Ashe

, 344 pages

12 halftones

April 2016



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Arthur Ashe

Tennis and Justice in the Civil Rights Era

Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2015


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."

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 justice.

Eric Allen Hall is an assistant professor of history at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro.

"Hall’s elegant and well-paced narrative teases out the contradictions of one of tennis’s most enigmatic characters."

"Eric Allen Hall's biography of Ashe is assiduous in giving context, ever-traceable in its sources, to the tennis player's life: his childhood in segregated Richmond is recounted with a summary of how de jure segregation ruled the lives of American children; his coming of age as an athlete and ROTC member includes sketches of the Civil Rights Era on campus and in Vietnam; his ascendance to a globe-touring professional with public demonstrations against apartheid in South Africa includes glosses on the competitive structure of world tennis and the Cold War arrangement of power between the segregated nations of America and South Africa."

"A strong book on an outstanding topic, it serves as a reminder that Ashe's tragic death has to some extent eclipsed his life's work on behalf of racial equality."

"A portrait of Arthur Ashe that shows the fullness of his character—his broad interests, his impressive talents, and his missteps."

"A remarkable book that will serve as a model for future works in this genre."

" Arthur Ashe is a scrupulous and lively book that should achieve the difficult task of satisfying both academics and non-specialists. Anyone interested in how the mixture of sport and politics has become cultural common sense will benefit tremendously from reading it."

"Hall's meticulous research of extensive archival materials allows him to uncover the complexities of Ashe's relationship with his own athleticism and race... This kind of collection is almost unique in sports history and Hall's capable use of it lends Arthur Ashe a depth of private detail unprecedented among athletic biographies, scholarly or otherwise... Meticulous, honest, and straightforward, the book itself might act as a tool by which other cultural critics, building on Hall's research, can bring refreshed and renewed attention to this intersection between sport and political activism, racial or otherwise."

"Hall's book expertly builds on... previous representations [of Arthur Ashe], and features an impressive analysis of primary data--including Ashe's personal diary--in an overall effort to offer the most critical and comprehensive historical account of his life to date. He succeeds in remarkable fashion..."

"An invaluable resource... It's a solidly researched book."

"Makes clear how difficult it was to stage the kind of civil rights politics and protests found across the board in American sports in the late 1960s in the traditionally patrician showground of tennis. Hall's accessible history restores much of the necessary context and conclusion to ensure that Ashe is understood on his own terms."

"This book is more than a biography; it is a window into the wider world that existed when Ashe was alive.  Hall’s research is meticulous, his contextualization of a life is impressive, and he writes his story clearly and deftly."

"Eric Allen Hall has ambitiously delved into the professional life of tennis icon Arthur Ashe, uncovering a complex figure who made assiduous efforts to balance a range of political agendas and expectations—from within and from without. Hall's narrative ventures into the political and cultural tumult that enveloped Ashe's life—from civil rights to apartheid—giving perspective to how the world-famous athlete negotiated his own path, which was simultaneously called too politically tepid and too militant."

"...This biography will appeal to a genral audience. Hall closely examined the relevant primary and seconday sourses."

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