Earlier this year, The Arthur Ashe Legacy Fund, under the leadership of Dean and Vice Provost Pat Turner, launched the Arthur Ashe Oral History Project. The Fund helps preserve the legacy of Ashe through a number of initiatives, including supporting a UCLA Arthur Ashe Scholarship, having a booth each year at the US Open, and offering a seminar each academic year, taught by Dean Turner, bringing the legacy of Arthur Ashe to a younger generation. A more recent initiative, The Arthur Ashe Oral History Project in collaboration with The Center For Oral History Research hopes to further the mission by developing an archive of oral histories and other archival documents such as photos and documents of Ashe with a focus on lesser known stories. The project is conducting a growing series of interviews with friends, family, and associates sharing their personal recollections of Ashe and reflecting on the evolution of tennis and historical events of the times.
Ashe’s tennis career, which emerged In the 60s amidst the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements, and student protests, unfolded at a pivotal time for tennis. In 1968 the sport transitioned to the “open era” where both professional and amateur players could compete in the Grand Slam Tournaments. The era ushered in many opportunities for players and spurred a growing commercial interest in the sport. Ashe would become the first African American to play on the US Davis Cup team and remains the only African American man to win the singles title at Wimbledon and the US Open. The recordings will reflect on each of these moments as well as stories of his childhood in Richmond, Virginia, his visit to South Africa in the early 70s, his activism and stories about his time in ROTC at UCLA and service at West Point.
Chinyere Nwonye, Oral Historian and I, Yolanda Hester, Project Director, started conducting interviews in January of this year with a commitment from over 40 of Ashe’s associates. When the COVID 19 crisis struck in March, we were thrilled to be able to transition the project to online interviews. For the next few posts, we will share snippets of our work with clips from interviews, photos, and short essays for context.
If you know of anyone who has a personal connection to Arthur Ashe and would like to be interviewed, please email us at: Ashehistoryproject@college.ucla.edu
The full interviews will be available online on the Center For Oral History Research site soon. We will announce when they are available. For more information on The Arthur Ashe Legacy Fund and The Center For Oral History Research, please visit their websites at: