Scope and arrangement
The Arthur Ashe Papers document the wide range of Ashe's political, athletic, business, and philanthropic activities. They are arranged in 13 series and 8 sub-series. Although they contain some significant material from the 1960s and 1970s, the papers are concentrated more heavily on Ashe's activities following his retirement from competitive tennis in 1980.
The Arthur Ashe archive is arranged in sixteen series:
Series contains material documenting various aspects of Ashe's life including biographical information, invitations and programs, his honorable discharge from the Army, records of his trips to South Africa in 1973 and 1974, and information regarding his arrest in a 1992 demonstration supporting Haitian refugees and final illness.
The biographical file contains genealogical material, profiles, and resumes listing Ashe's vital statistics, career highlights, awards, and other activities. Of note is a 1959 letter to tennis officials from his coach, Dr. R. Walter Johnson, which describes in detail the roadblocks he encountered in trying to enter the 16-year old Ashe in a tournament at the Congressional Country Club in Washington, D.C. There are also miscellaneous funeral programs, including that of Martin Luther King Jr., invitations to White House dinners and AIDS benefits, and several clippings about childhood friends.
The South Africa sub-series contains manuscript and printed matter maintained by Ashe to document his 1973 and 1974 trips. The correspondence includes responses from political and cultural leaders to Ashe's request for their opinion as to the conditions under which he should visit South Africa in 1973 once he was granted a visa. They include Rep. Barbara Jordan, Rep. Andrew Young, Dennis Brutus, and Nikki Giovanni. There are also numerous clippings from the South African and American press covering the trips, as well as background reading material. Also of note are copies of poems by Don Mattera, a banned poet and journalist, given to Ashe in Johannesburg. They include one which Mattera wrote after meeting Ashe, "Anguished Spirit - Ashe". Additional clippings may be found in the Scrapbooks series.
The 1992 Haitian refugee demonstration folder contains a copy of the form releasing Ashe from custody, newspaper clippings, and correspondence thanking him for his participation. The folder on his final illness includes a memorandum asking his assistant to postpone appointments and reflecting Ashe's optimism that he will recover, a few notes scribbled during his last hospital stay, and invitations to events he was planning to attend, such as the Riddick Bowe-Michael Dokes championship fight which occurred on the day he died.
Series consists almost entirely of incoming letters, cards, telegrams, and faxes. It is divided into two sub-series, General Correspondence and AIDS Announcement. Additional correspondence may be found in the Personal Papers, Boards and Organizations, Projects and Proposed Projects, Davis Cup Captaincy, and Writings series, particularly the A Hard Road to Glory sub-series.
The General Correspondence sub-series extends from 1968, when Ashe won the United States Open, until his death in 1993. Due to his extensive travel schedule, particularly while playing competitive tennis prior to 1980, there are only a few individuals with whom Ashe carried on a substantive correspondence of more than one or two letters. These are foldered by individual name and include his lawyer and agent, Donald Dell, and Dell's onetime partner, Frank H. Craighill 3rd, who discuss business and financial matters (including the 1983 break-up of their law and management firm) and give Ashe encouragement with tennis matches and health problems; British tennis legend and peace activist Henry "Bunny" Austin, who comments on subjects ranging from tennis to political events in Britain, Africa, and the Middle East; tennis champion Stan Smith; tennis official Robert A. Briner; sportswriter Frank Deford; and business executive and tennis supporter Joseph F. Cullman 3rd. There is additional correspondence from Dell and Cullman relating to Ashe's 1973 visit to South African in the Personal Papers series.
The remainder of the General Correspondence sub-series is organized chronologically. It covers a wide variety of subjects, including Ashe's political activities, Davis Cup captaincy, business ventures, requests and acknowledgements for personal appearances, congratulations for victories won and awards received, and his illnesses. Ashe's correspondents include world figures, relatives, friends, fans, and admirers, such as Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Bishop Desmond Tutu, South African anti-apartheid legislator Helen Suzman, members of the Kennedy and Shriver families, six American presidents, local and state officials in Virginia, and numerous tennis personalities.
Correspondence concerning his earliest trips to South Africa in 1973 and 1974 was maintained separately by Ashe along with related printed material and is found in the Personal Papers series.
The earliest correspondence, in 1968, contains a number of telegrams congratulating Ashe on his victory at the U. S. Open championships and a letter from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., written shortly before Ashe was to deliver his first political speech, thanking Ashe for his support and encouraging him to bring the respect and authority he has achieved to the Movement. The good wishes from friends after Ashe's first heart attack in 1979 include a long letter from fellow player Erik Van Dillen concerning life beyond tennis. R. Sargent Shriver, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, and other Kennedy family members thank him for his financial support and other encouragement in the 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns and various charitable endeavors.
In the 1980s, letters discuss apartheid in South Africa and whether athletes should compete there, including ones from American golfer Jack Nicklaus and Canadian businessman John R. Turpin. A letter from Prof. Harry Edwards comments on an Ashe article concerning Edwards' relationship to Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos. (Additional material relating to Harry Edwards may be found in the National Organization on the Status of Minorities in Sports folder in the Organizations and Boards series. Edwards chaired the organization and Ashe served on its Executive Board.) Other correspondents include students discussing Ashe's influence on them, tennis officials and personalities writing to Ashe regarding tennis politics and Davis Cup matters, and numerous well-wishers following his heart surgeries. Letters in the 1990s contain requests for appearances, interviews, and speaking engagements, as well as encouragement sent by many friends and fans during Ashe's illnesses both before and after his AIDS announcement. USTA Nominating Committee chairman Charles B. Morris responds to Ashe's request for information on the composition and selection of the USTA Board. Dr. R. Walter Johnson's son Robert criticizes some of Ashe's statements in interviews about their youth in Richmond. There are also numerous congratulations following Ashe's selection as Sports Illustrated's 1992 Sportsman of the Year.
Series, arranged chronologically beginning in 1976, encompasses notes and drafts for Ashe's numerous speeches, as well as correspondence and programs related to these events. Ashe spoke at a number of commencement ceremonies, often as the recipient of an honorary degree. He also delivered remarks at sports dinners, conferences, business forums, and other occasions, such as Martin Luther King Day or Black History Month. Most of his speeches are written out in manuscript form or typed, although some appear in note form, jotted down on the event program.
Significant topics on which Ashe spoke include the state of intercollegiate athletics, apartheid, healthcare, the challenges of growing up in segregated Richmond and competing in the largely white tennis world, and AIDS. A number of speeches in the series were delivered during Ashe's final year, after he revealed that he had AIDS and became active in increasing public awareness of the disease and fundraising for research. Also included in the series is the statement Ashe read at the April 8, 1992 press conference announcing he had AIDS, a statement by Mayor David Dinkins, lists of media present on that occasion, requests for interviews, and the telephone message received by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe the day before asking her to return home to help Ashe address the rumors of his illness which were about to become public.
Series is primarily organized by titles of Ashe's publications, Days of Grace: A Memoir, A Hard Road to Glory, his column for The Washington Post, and other books and articles. Among the significant material contained in the series are edited and unedited transcriptions of twelve interviews with co-author Arnold Rampersad in preparation for his autobiography, Days of Grace: A Memoir. The interviews in the Days of Grace: A Memoir sub-series cover the wide range of topics addressed by Ashe in the book: his childhood and early tennis career in segregated Richmond; experiences throughout the world as a tennis champion and Davis Cup captain; views on politics, apartheid, race, and the personalities of the day; his efforts to mentor African-American athletes; his family; business ventures; and final struggle with AIDS. Also included is a transcription of a tape made by Ashe in September 1992, during a period of hospitalization following a second heart attack. He talks in detail about his medical treatment, the healthcare system, Haitian refugee crisis, and Clinton presidential campaign. There is also an extensive discussion of his love of music and art. The sub-series also includes drafts, edited by Ashe and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, and galleys of the book.
The Writings series also includes drafts of Ashe's column in the Washington Post, written from 1977 until his death on subjects of great concern to Ashe, including racism in sports and society, athletes and education, and apartheid, among others. In addition, there is material relating to the publication of Daddy and Me (1993), portraying Ashe and his daughter Camera as they supported each other in the face of AIDS, with photographs and text by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe. Included are drafts of text and layout, correspondence with editors, and printed publicity material. Galleys may be found in the Oversized box at the end of the collection. There is no material documenting his first autobiography, Portrait in Motion (1975), written with Frank Deford. The Arthur Ashe on Tennis (1995) folder contains only a 1990 proposal for the book from co-author Alexander McNab and a partial handwritten draft by Ashe for the section which concerned his relationship with John McEnroe. Miscellaneous magazine articles written by Ashe over the years concern tennis, his health, and race and sports. There is also a fragment of a 1988-1989 journal in which he discusses his feelings about his AIDS diagnosis, his treatment, and his family.
Series documents Ashe's service on boards of directors, committees, and advisory panels concerned with causes that he championed, such as anti-apartheid activities, efforts to develop tennis players from impoverished urban areas, increasing college graduation rates of black athletes, and AIDS research and outreach. Organizations include the Aetna Life & Casualty Company, African American Athletic Association, Inc., Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid, Athlete-Career Connection/Safe Passage Foundation, Ashe-Bollittieri Cities Tennis Program (ABC), Harvard AIDS Institute, Virginia Heroes, TransAfrica, and several benefit committees. The records of these organizations comprise correspondence with Ashe regarding his board and committee work, memoranda, reports, clippings, pamphlets, and notes of meetings.
There is little material documenting Ashe's long service on the board and as president of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), although there is correspondence and clippings during his last year, 1983, concerning a lawsuit against the ATP by the World Championship Tennis tour (WCT) and a disciplinary matter involving Ashe's friend, Yannick Noah. Similarly, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) file reflects only some of Ashe's USTA activities, such as his efforts to provide training opportunities for minority players while serving on the Player Development Committee.
Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid, founded by Ashe and Harry Belafonte in 1983, includes a memorandum concerning strategy for its boycott of South Africa, as well as pamphlets and clippings. The African American Athletic Association material comprises correspondence, reports, and notes by Ashe for conferences and workshops organized to mentor high school athletes, as well as correspondence with Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe concerning fundraising efforts after his death. The TransAfrica folders contain correspondence and printed material about Ashe's trip as a member of a delegation to South Africa in 1991. Of particular interest are notes kept by Ashe during the trip regarding meetings he attended and people he met, among them Nelson Mandela. There is also a draft of a letter, written shortly before Ashe died, to African National Congress official Thabo Mbeki regretting that he could not travel again to South Africa and briefly commenting on apartheid and Haiti.
Series documents a range of projects with which Ashe was associated, although not as a formal board or committee member, after he retired from competitive tennis in 1980. Notes, correspondence, memoranda, and draft contracts trace the planning of several joint ventures with the publishers of Black Enterprise, such as the creation of a series of instructional tennis videos for the African-American community. Ashe also investigated the possibility of supporting a bookstore to sell the work of black authors. Included in the series are articles and correspondence suggesting projects that friends and the public wished Ashe to participate in or lend his name to, but which were not ultimately undertaken.
Material in the African American Sports Hall of Fame and Ashe Statue folders documents Ashe's efforts to establish an African-American Sports Hall of Fame in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and the ultimate erection of a statue honoring him there. Planning for the facility began in 1992 as an outgrowth of Ashe's work on A Hard Road to Glory. At the same time, Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale offered to create a statue of Ashe to be placed in front of the proposed building. Fundraising for the Hall of Fame and statue continued after Ashe's death. Although the Hall of Fame project was eventually abandoned, planning for a statue to be placed on Monument Avenue continued. Correspondence, memoranda, sketches, and clippings, including Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe's January 1, 1996 op-ed article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, trace the debates concerning the Hall of Fame idea and the location of the statue. Blueprints of the statue may be found in the Oversized box at the end of the collection.
Ashe was named captain of the United States Davis Cup team in September 1980 and served through five annual campaigns until his resignation following the 1985 matches. The bulk of the Davis Cup Captaincy, 1980-1986, series has been retained in the order established by Ashe, by year and opponent, and includes correspondence, clippings, and programs. The series also includes additional general correspondence, drawsheets, forms, schedules, financial statements, and agreements.
The material documents the excitement of Ashe and his supporters during the first two years of his captaincy as the team won the Cup and the challenges of the last three years when it lost. It also reflects the generational changes taking place in the tennis world. Of particular interest are the articles and correspondence criticizing the sportsmanship of team members Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe during a number of matches, especially the 1984 final against Sweden, and the subsequent debates among tennis officials over whether to institute an official code of conduct. Additional letters congratulating Ashe on his appointment as captain or commenting on his resignation may be found in the General Correspondence sub-series of the Correspondence series.
Series includes contracts and agreements with companies, such as Head and Le Coq Sportif, for product endorsements, as well as for appearances as a television commentator on HBO and ABC. There is also correspondence with Ashe's agent, ProServ Management, headed by Donald Dell, and financial statements, reports, and minutes pertaining to investments in tennis clubs, properties, and tournament rights in connection with Ashe's participation in Players Enterprises Inc. (PEI), a corporation organized by Dell into which Ashe and other players contributed prize money and received income and benefits.
Series includes the programs for memorial services conducted for Ashe in Richmond and New York City, correspondence related to memorial service arrangements, a letter and poem by Gordon Parks read at the New York service, and a prayer memorial by Ashe's friend Rev. Jefferson P. Rogers. It also includes assorted condolence cards and letters from fans, friends, and schoolchildren. The condolence letters and cards are only a sampling of those sent to the Ashe family and do not reflect the large volume of letters ultimately received. They include one from Muhammed Ali to sportscaster Bryant Gumbel, which was given to Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe some years later, asking Gumbel to convey Ali's sorrow.
Series consists of certificates, honorary degrees, proclamations, citations, programs, and invitations honoring Ashe in the years following his retirement from competitive tennis. It also includes correspondence, brochures, newsletters, invitations, speeches, citations, and certificates documenting tributes to Ashe and events held in his honor after his death in 1993. Oversized certificates and proclamations, including Ashe's Sports Emmy award, are located in the Oversized box at the end of the collection.
Contain topics of interest to Ashe. These include reference files used by Ashe for researching and writing speeches and articles, as well as other subjects of interest to him, such as race and education, particularly concerning athletes, race and economics, AIDS treatments, and privacy and ethics in the media. Additional files have been created to include clippings and other printed material collected by Ashe about noted personalities, including Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder, Malcolm X, and Rev. Howard Thurman.
Series includes a General sub-series of magazine articles and clippings about Ashe from both the American and foreign media documenting his career as a professional tennis player, particularly his major championships, as well as his activities as a writer and activist. A second sub-series, AIDS Announcement (1992), documents the media coverage following his announcement in April 1992 that he had AIDS. A third sub-series contains obituaries and articles related to Ashe's legacy in the ten years following his death.
Additional clippings and articles about Ashe may be found in the South Africa trip material in the Personal Papers series, the Davis Cup Captaincy series, and the Tennis folder of the A Hard Road to Glory research material in the Writings series. A 1975 Wimbledon program, an unassembled Wheaties box featuring Ashe and other advertisements are filed in the Oversized box at the end of the collection.
There are five scrapbooks in the Scrapbooks, 1968-1980, series. Assembled by friends and fans, three were created to document Ashe's tennis achievements. They contain clippings, photographs, programs, and memorabilia covering the years, 1968-1972, 1975, and 1979-1980. The other two scrapbooks contain clippings from the South African press documenting his 1974 trip there.