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Eric Allen HallArthur Ashe: Tennis and Justice in the Civil Rights Era

Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014

by Bruce Berglund on November 4, 2014

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When he died from AIDS in 1993, Arthur Ashe was universally hailed as a man of principle, grace, and wisdom—a world-class athlete who had transcended his game. But a closer look at Ashe’s life reveals a more complex picture. Certainly, Ashe was an admirable figure. When tennis tournament organizers barred the teenage phenom because of his race, Ashe maintained his dignity. Decades later, when he was teaching a university course on African Americans in sport, Ashe couldn’t find a suitable textbook. So he researched and wrote one himself. At the same time, however, Ashe’s views on civil rights initially were more in line with those of Booker T. Washington than those of other politically active athletes of the 1960s. He did not accept the equality of women in sports. And his position on competing in South Africa under apartheid went through a long evolution. On these issues and others, Arthur Ashe had plenty of critics–something that is often missed today.

Surprisingly, despite his pioneering role in the history of tennis and his involvement in a range of pursuits off the court, Ashe has not been the subject of a scholarly biography. Eric Allen Hall’s book, Arthur Ashe: Tennis and Justice in the Civil Rights Era (Johns Hopkins University, 2014) fills this gap. As Eric explains in the interview, Ashe was a unique athlete in that he left his personal papers to a research archive. His biography thus draws not only from press accounts of Ashe’s life and the tennis star’s own memoirs (he wrote four during his lifetime), but also from Ashe’s notes and letters. The result is a portrait of Arthur Ashe that shows the fullness of his character–his broad interests, his impressive talents, and his missteps.

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Matthew AlgeoPedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport

September 4, 2014

Once upon a time, before baseball drew crowds to America’s ballparks and English workers spent their Saturdays at the football grounds, one of the most popular spectator events in both countries was watching people walk. Pedestrianism had its start outdoors, as walkers set off on long-distance treks for the simple challenge of it—or to win [...]

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Stefan Rinke and Kay Schiller (eds.)The FIFA World Cup 1930-2010: Politics, Commerce, Spectacle and Identities

August 1, 2014

The history of globalization is found in more than international political organizations and multinational corporations, free-trade agrteements and foreign direct investments, satellite communications and special export zones.  When looking at the forces that have driven globalization over the last decades, we must also look to football and especially the World Cup.  Indeed, there is no [...]

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J. C. HerzLearning to Breath Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness

July 18, 2014

In industrial parks, converted warehouses, and pole barns across the country, a fitness revolution is taking place. It’s a revolution, according to J.C. Herz, that’s leading us not so much forward as back, into what she calls “the primal future of fitness.” This future is one in which fitness connects us with the deep memories [...]

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Roger Kittleson, “The Country of Football: Soccer and the Making of Modern Brazil” (University of California Press, 2014) and Joshua Nadel, “Fútbol! Why Soccer Matters in Latin America” (University Press of Florida, 2014)

June 24, 2014

Passion. Flair. Instinct. Improvisation. As the World Cup advances to the knockout stage, you’ll hear these terms associated with the football styles of Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico rather than those of Belgium and Germany.  As historians Roger Kittleson and Joshua Nadel explain, the soccer cultures of Brazil and other countries of Latin America have long [...]

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Travis VoganKeepers of the Flame: NFL Films and the Rise of Sports Media

May 16, 2014

Last weekend was the NFL Draft, the annual event when teams select college players who have shown the talent to advance to the professional ranks.  Staged at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, broadcast live on two cable networks, and surrounded by ceaseless media attention and analysis, the Draft is the spring anchor-point of the [...]

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Lucia TrimburCome Out Swinging: The Changing World of Boxing in Gleason’s Gym

April 25, 2014

Imagine a boxing gym. What probably comes to mind is a large, run-down room on the upper floor of an old brick building, somewhere in a trash-strewn, depressed neighborhood. The room echoes with the thud of the heavy bag, the rat-tat-tat of the speed bag, the quick whisks of the jump rope. The men training [...]

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Lincoln HarveyA Brief Theology of Sport

April 4, 2014

Does God care who wins the game? According to a recent survey, plenty of American fans think so.  The Public Religion Research Institute found that a quarter of fans said that they had prayed to God for a favorable outcome to a game.  Add in those who practice some personal ritual in the hope that [...]

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Brett Hutchins & David RoweSport Beyond Television: The Internet, Digital Media and the Rise of Networked Media Sport

March 20, 2014

Twenty years ago, when I was studying abroad in Europe, the only way to keep track of my teams back in the US was to sneak looks in The International Herald Tribune at the newspaper kiosk (the price of the paper was beyond my meager budget).  Twelve years after that, when I returned to Europe [...]

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N. Jeremi DuruAdvancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL

March 6, 2014

Each year, following the end of the NFL season, there is a blizzard of activity as teams with disappointing records fire their head coaches and look for the new leader who will turn things around.  This year, seven teams fired their coaches and spent the next weeks searching for a replacement among the pool of [...]

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