A Hard Road to Glory
“Those who believe in fate would say there could have been no other occupation for me than professional athlete. I grew up literally surrounded by sports. My father was the caretaker of Brookfield, the largest public park for blacks in Richmond, Virginia, offering swimming, tennis, basketball, baseball, and football facilities. Our house was actually on the grounds of the park.
As a young sports fan, I idolized Jackie Robinson—as did most black kids in the late ’40s and early ’50s. But I was also inspired by people like Althea Gibson, Bill Russell, and Sugar Ray Robinson. Reading of their feats helped motivate me to seek a career as a professional athlete.
This passion for sports, perhaps, made it inevitable that I would someday write A Hard Road to Glory, my three-volume history of the African-American athlete. When I discovered that no such comprehensive chronicle of the black athlete’s experience had ever been done, I immediately set to researching the work.
Soon I learned that while I admired Jackie Robinson’s prowess on the diamond, I had no conception of the struggle he faced, the hardships he overcame. What’s more, I learned about people like Jack Johnson, Joe Gans, Isaac Murphy, Marshall Taylor and Howard P. Drew—athletic icons, one and all, who were obviously ignored in post-World War II sports histories.
It is impossible to overestimate the popularity of these figures. In their day, they were much better known and admired than Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Dubois, and Marcus Garvey. But for black athletes, the competition was often the least imposing obstacle; there was also discrimination, vilification, incarceration and ultimate despair to overcome. Sadly, only a few of the historic sports greats were able to live out their post-athletic days in peace and prosperity. The book—and this calendar—is designed to ensure that they are not forgotten.
Today’s African-American athletes continue to inspire their brethren, as evidenced by the fact that millions of young blacks continue to dream of athletic stardom. They will no doubt find the stories in this calendar particularly compelling and, I hope, somewhat sobering. Hopefully, they will come away with an appreciation of what a hard road it really is.”
—Arthur R. Ashe, Jr.
Drawing from the many athletes that Arthur Ashe profiled for his unprecedented book A Hard Road to Glory, which examined the history of African-Americans in sport
Sugar Ray Robinson
Tommie Smith & John Carlos