Part of the reasoning cited in the Brown decision was that discrimination had a criplling effect on the self-esteem
of black pupils. As the civil rights movement gained ground, removing the stigma of inferiority not only in schools
but throughout society, black pride increased. The terms "colored" and "negro" gave way to "Afro-American"
and "black." Magazines such as Ebony flourished. Kwanzaa celebrations were created to recognize an African
value system supporting group identity, and the "Afro" and other African-inspired hairstyles and modes of
dress became popular. There was broad interest in and wide acceptance of black music by the mainstream
media. In 1977 the miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley's book about a black family in America, attracted
an audience of 130,000,000 Americans and became the most-watched television special in history.
There was increased interest by blacks and whites in African and African American history. Virginia State
University professor Edgar Toppin and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History
were instrumental in desegregating the study of American history by increasing awareness of African American
contributions and historical figures. By February 1976, Negro History Week, conceived by Virginia-born
Carter G. Woodson, had evolved into Black History Month. Black studies courses and academic
departments were founded. Games, puzzles, and collectible cards were produced with black history
themes. Virginia's Department of Historic Resources increased the number of roadside historical
markers noting black achievements and rewrote the text of old signs that perpetuated racial stereotypes.
New interest was taken in saving historic structures in the black community and in finding viable uses
Among some young people, black thinking went full circle, rejecting the goal of integration in favor
of black separatism and self-sufficiency. The "Black Power" movement, which irritated the civil rights
establishment, sought to empower African Americans so that they would not need white cooperation
to achieve a just society. But in a nation that was still 90 percent white, this was delusional unless
blacks decided to return to Africa—and very few did.
Arthur Ashe, Jr. (1943–1993)
A blend of self-contained calm and competitive drive, Arthur Ashe
began playing tennis in Richmond at age seven, but because of racial discrimination he had to move away
to fully develop his talent for the game. For fifteen years, beginning in 1965, he ranked among the top
ten male tennis players in the world. After claiming the U.S. Open singles championship in 1968, he
went on to win the Wimbledon singles title in 1975. A heart attack forced his retirement in 1980,
and five years later he became the second African American (after Althea Gibson) elected to the
International Tennis Hall of Fame.
In retirement, Ashe wrote A Hard Road to Glory—a comprehensive history of America's black athletes
—helped inner-city youth, and promoted an end to South African apartheid. He contracted the HIV virus
from a blood transfusion and spent a good deal of time during his final days heightening awareness of HIV and AIDS.
A monument to Ashe was unveiled on Monument Avenue—hitherto reserved for Confederate notables—in July 1996.
Courtesy Richmond Times-Dispatch.
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