Sketch of Arthur Ashe, by Paul DiPasquale, 1993
After meeting Arthur Ashe in 1992, Paul DiPasquale, a sculptor known for public art, received permission to create a statue of the tennis champion. DiPasquale produced nine crayon and pencil studies for the statue the following year. After Ashe died in 1993, his wife, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, along with other family members, approved the portrait studies. Moutoussamy-Ashe also suggested the non-profit mentoring organization Virginia Heroes Incorporated as a possible source for funds. In 1993 the president and board of Virginia Heroes voted to raise $400,000 to complete the fabrication and installation of the twenty-four-foot high bronze and granite monument.
The statue, located on Richmond's Monument Avenue, was unveiled on 10 July 1996. Had Ashe lived, he would have been fifty-three years old that day. The location of the statute sparked controversy. Critics opposed the site selected for the Ashe statue, a historic thoroughfare dotted with monuments to Confederate leaders. Southern heritage groups were the most vocal opponents, although a sizable minority of African Americans also objected to the placement of the statue because of Monument Avenue's association with the Confederacy.
Born on 10 July 1943, Arthur Ashe, Jr., was the son of Arthur Ashe, Sr., and Mattie Cordell Cunningham Ashe. At the age of twenty-eight, Mattie Ashe died. Arthur, Jr., was only six years old at the time. A year later, he met a Virginia Union University student, Ronald Charity, on the segregated Brook Road tennis courts where Charity was practicing. Charity taught Ashe how to play tennis. When he grew older, Ashe received additional training from Dr. Robert Walter "Whirlwind" Johnson of Lynchburg, Virginia. Johnson was a leader in the American Tennis Association, the black counterpart to the all-white United States Lawn Tennis Association. During the summer months, Ashe attended Johnson's camp, where Althea Gibson had also trained.
During his senior year in high school, Ashe relocated to St. Louis, Missouri, for additional tennis instruction. There, racial segregation was not as rigid. Ashe trained on indoor courts with hardwood surfaces, the challenge of which helped him develop. He also competed with whites as well as blacks. In 1960, Ashe became the first African American to win the national Junior Indoors Singles title. A year later, he won his second national title at the National Interscholastic Tournament, held at the University of Virginia. Ashe also graduated with the highest grades in his high school class. He accepted an athletic scholarship from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), from which he graduated in 1966 with a degree in business administration.
In 1967, Ashe entered the army for a two-year tour of duty. After leaving the army, he resumed his tennis career and soon became the top-ranked player in the world. In 1975, Arthur Ashe became the first African American to win the gentlemen's singles championship at Wimbledon.
In 1977 Ashe married Jeanne Moutoussamy, a photographer, and they had a daughter whom they named Camera. After heart surgery in 1979, Ashe announced his retirement from competitive tennis. In 1982 he was named Virginian of the Year by the Virginia Press Association. That same year, the city of Richmond named a new athletic center in his honor. In 1983 Ashe became co-founder of Artists and Athletes against Apartheid. Ashe researched and wrote A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African-American Athlete, a comprehensive three-volume work published in 1988. He conceived of a mentoring program for at-risk youth called Virginia Heroes in 1990. For his post-tennis career, he was selected Sportsman of the Year in 1992 by Sports Illustrated.
Ashe said that it was his demeanor that set him apart from other tennis players. "What it is, is controlled cool, in a way. Always have the situation under control, even in losing. Never betray an inward sense of defeat." Ashe became known as "The Iceman" by some of his colleagues because of his seeming nonchalance and detached attitude.
Monument Avenue and the erection of the Arthur Ashe Statue (Read the Richmond Times-Dispatch article)
In 1887, Monument Avenue was proposed to encourage residential development west of the growing city and to announce Richmond's intentions of maintaining its role as the leading city of the South. The founding of the avenue coincided with national movements: the emerging City Beautiful movement encouraged the erection of monuments to national heroes; the American Renaissance movement inspired mostly romanticized interpretations of the nation's history, art, and architecture; and the cult of the Lost Cause venerated Confederate leaders. The Lee Monument was unveiled in 1890 after much debate about its location and sculptor (Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercie, a Frenchman, was eventually given the commission). Monument Avenue took on greater significance after the opening of the Museum of the Confederacy in the mid-1890s, solidifying the city and the avenue's role as a shrine to the Lost Cause. In 1907, two other monuments on the avenue were unveiled: one to J. E. B. Stuart and another to Jefferson Davis. A monument to Stonewall Jackson followed in 1919, and finally, in 1929, a monument was erected to honor Matthew Fontaine Maury.
Paul DiPasquale was commissioned by Virginia Heroes, Inc., to sculpt a statue of Arthur Ashe. As part of his preliminary work, DiPasquale made nine conte crayon studies of his subject. The drawings are approximately 26 inches by 21 inches. They are part of the Virginia Heroes Incorporated Collection, which was acquired by the Virginia Historical Society in 1997. While Virginia Heroes, Inc., owned the sketches, DiPasquale retained the copyright, and the Society needed to get his permission to use the drawings in this project.
Featured is one of nine crayon and pencil studies produced by Paul DiPasquale in 1993. (Copyright Paul DiPasquale)
Activities: Teaching the Document
1. Remind your students that Paul DiPasquale met Arthur Ashe. Have them look closely at the sketch. What do they think the artist is trying to say about Ashe?
2. Ask your students how the drawing (and the statue) might be different had the artist wanted the public to know that Ashe was a tennis champion?
3. Have your students read the newspaper article concerning the placement of the Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Avenue. (Make sure that they understand that Monument Avenue is a historic boulevard lined mostly with grand turn-of-the-twentieth-century homes.) Have them identify and list as many arguments as they can both for and against the placement of the statue on Monument Avenue. Ask, "What is the best argument offered by those in favor of the statue's location?" "What is the best argument offered by those opposed?" (DiPasquale's plaster model of the statue, mentioned in the first paragraph of the article, is currently on display at the Virginia Historical Society.)
4. Refer your students to other items on this site, specifically the 1866 broadside and the Jerome Baskett letter. Ask them about the issues that arise concerning the Civil War and memory. Do they see examples in their communities?
5. Ask your students about how we as a society remember and commemorate the past. Can public art and historical commemorations ever please everyone? How would they deal with controversies that arise from events such as Jamestown 2007?
• Arthur Ashe and Frank Deford. Portrait in Motion.
• Arthur Ashe and Neil Amdur. Off the Court.
• Arthur Ashe. A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African American Athlete.
• Sarah Shields Driggs, Richard Guy Wilson, and Robert P. Winthrop. Richmond's Monument Avenue.
• Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, and Cornel West, editors. Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History, volume 1, pp. 204–07.
Standards of Learning
• VS.8b, VS.9b, VS.9c, USII.8a, VUS.13a, VUS.13b