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A “thoroughly captivating biography” (The San Francisco Chronicle) of American icon Arthur Ashe—the Jackie Robinson of men’s tennis—a pioneering athlete who, after breaking the color barrier, went on to become an influential civil rights activist and public intellectual.
Born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1943, by the age of eleven, Arthur Ashe was one of the state’s most talented black tennis players. He became the first African American to play for the US Davis Cup team in 1963, and two years later he won the NCAA singles championship. In 1968, he rose to a number one national ranking. Turning professional in 1969, he soon became one of the world’s most successful tennis stars, winning the Australian Open in 1970 and Wimbledon in 1975. After retiring in 1980, he served four years as the US Davis Cup captain and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985.
In this “deep, detailed, thoughtful chronicle” (The New York Times Book Review), Raymond Arsenault chronicles Ashe’s rise to stardom on the court. But much of the book explores his off-court career as a human rights activist, philanthropist, broadcaster, writer, businessman, and celebrity. In the 1970s and 1980s, Ashe gained renown as an advocate for sportsmanship, education, racial equality, and the elimination of apartheid in South Africa. But from 1979 on, he was forced to deal with a serious heart condition that led to multiple surgeries and blood transfusions, one of which left him HIV-positive. After devoting the last ten months of his life to AIDS activism, Ashe died in February 1993 at the age of forty-nine, leaving an inspiring legacy of dignity, integrity, and active citizenship.
Based on prodigious research, including more than one hundred interviews, Arthur Ashe puts Ashe in the context of both his time and the long struggle of African-American athletes seeking equal opportunity and respect, and “will serve as the standard work on Ashe for some time” (Library Journal, starred review).
The books in the Florida and the Caribbean Open Books Series demonstrate the University Press of Florida’s long history of publishing Latin American and Caribbean studies titles that connect in and through Florida, highlighting the connections between the Sunshine State and its neighboring islands. Books in this series show how early explorers found and settled Florida and the Caribbean. They tell the tales of early pioneers, both foreign and domestic. They examine topics critical to the area such as travel, migration, economic opportunity, and tourism. They look at the growth of Florida and the Caribbean and the attendant pressures on the environment, culture, urban development, and the movement of peoples, both forced and voluntary.
The Florida and the Caribbean Open Books Series gathers the rich data available in these architectural, archaeological, cultural, and historical works, as well as the travelogues and naturalists’ sketches of the area in prior to the twentieth century, making it accessible for scholars and the general public alike.
The Florida and the Caribbean Open Books Series is made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, under the Humanities Open Books program.
Winner of the Owsley Prize
Publication is timed to coincide with the airing of the American Experience miniseries documenting the Freedom Rides
"Arsenault brings vividly to life a defining moment in modern American history."
--Eric Foner, The New York Times Book Review
"Authoritative, compelling history."
--William Grimes, The New York Times
"For those interested in understanding 20th-century America, this is an essential book."
--Roger Wilkins, Washington Post Book World
"Arsenault's record of strategy sessions, church vigils, bloody assaults, mass arrests, political maneuverings and personal anguish captures the mood and the turmoil, the excitement and the confusion of the movement and the time."
--Michael Kenney, The Boston Globe
Few moments in Civil Rights history are as important as the morning of Sunday April 9, 1939 when Marian Anderson sang before a throng of thousands lined up along the Mall by the Lincoln Memorial. She had been banned from the Daughters of the American Revolution's Constitution Hall because she was black. When Eleanor Roosevelt, who resigned from the DAR over the incident, took up Anderson's cause, however, it became a national issue. The controversy showed Americans that discrimination was not simply a regional problem. As Arsenault shows, Anderson's dignity and courage enabled her, like a female Jackie Robinson - but several years before him - to strike a vital blow for civil rights.
Today the moment still resonates. Postcards and CDs of Anderson are sold at the Memorial and Anderson is still considered one of the greats of 20th century American music. In a short but richly textured narrative, Raymond Arsenault captures the struggle for racial equality in pre-WWII America and a moment that inspired blacks and whites alike. In rising to the occasion, he writes, Marion Anderson "consecrated" the Lincoln Memorial as a shrine of freedom. In the 1963 March on Washington Martin Luther King would follow, literally, in her footsteps.
The Freedom Riders were greeted with hostility, fear, and violence. They were jailed and beaten, their buses stoned and firebombed. In Alabama, police stood idly by as racist thugs battered them. When Martin Luther King met the Riders in Montgomery, a raging mob besieged them in a church. Arsenault recreates these moments with heart-stopping immediacy. His tightly braided narrative reaches from the White House--where the Kennedys were just awakening to the moral power of the civil rights struggle--to the cells of Mississippi's infamous Parchman Prison, where Riders tormented their jailers with rousing freedom anthems. Along the way, he offers vivid portraits of dynamic figures such as James Farmer, Diane Nash, John Lewis, and Fred Shuttlesworth, recapturing the drama of an improbable, almost unbelievable saga of heroic sacrifice and unexpected triumph.
The Riders were widely criticized as reckless provocateurs, or "outside agitators." But indelible images of their courage, broadcast to the world by a newly awakened press, galvanized the movement for racial justice across the nation. Freedom Riders is a stunning achievement, a masterpiece of storytelling that will stand alongside the finest works on the history of civil rights.