Arthur Ashe's legacy is manifold. Rarely have sports celebrities taken on social issues with such passion and commitment as did Ashe. He broke color barriers both in his own country and abroad, and fought tirelessly for social justice, founding the African American Athletic Association to mentor student athletes and helping preserve the history of African-American athletes with his contributions to the 1988 A Hard Road to Glory. He helped erase the stigma of having AIDS, raised public awareness of this devastating epidemic, and spoke to the United Nations General Assembly in an effort to get more funds devoted to AIDS research. In 1990, when President Nelson Mandela, freed from his South African jail after twenty-seven years, was asked which American he'd most like to meet, his immediate response was "Arthur Ashe." Tennis champion Martina Navratilova characterized Ashe, as reported in the Washington Post (and quoted in Newsmakers 1993), as "an extraordinary human being who transcended his sport, his race, religion and nationality and in his own way helped to change the world."
Increasing minority presence in all sectors of society was a vision to which Arthur Ashe dedicated his life. "I know I could never forgive myself," Ashe wrote in his memoir, "if I elected to live without human purpose, without trying to help the poor and unfortunate, without recognizing that perhaps the purest joy in life comes from trying to help others." Ashe was adamant about the necessity of increasing minority participation throughout society, not just in the sports arena. "We deify black athletes," the Houston Chronicle quoted Ashe as saying in 1992. "Black families are eight times more likely to push youngsters into athletics than are white families.… The disparity is glaring." Shortly after his retirement, Ashe said (according to an article on About.com), "We have been on the same roads-sports and entertainmenttoo long. We need to pull over, fill up at the library, and speed away to Congress and to the Supreme Court, the unions and the business world."
- Arthur Ashe - Related Biography: Tennis Player Yannick Noah
- Arthur Ashe - The Greatest Burden
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