Breaking the Barriers: The American Tennis Association & Black Tennis Pioneers


Breaking the Barriers:

The American Tennis Association & Black Tennis Pioneers

Exhibition on view, Sept. 28 through Jan. 5, at San Francisco Main Library, Skylight Gallery

San Francisco Public Library and United States Tennis Association (USTA) are pleased to present, Breaking The Barriers: The American Tennis Association (ATA) and Black Tennis Pioneers, an exhibition that blends photos, newspaper accounts and video to create a lively, informative and thought provoking experience about the history of African Americans playing tennis. The exhibit, which will be on view Sept. 28 through Jan. 5, also explores the origins and history of the American Tennis Association, which was established in 1916 to promote the sport of tennis and to help African Americans gain access to tournament tennis. The exhibit will be on view in the San Francisco Main Library’s Skylight Gallery, 100 Larkin St., 6th Floor, San Francisco. As the exhibition reveals, there were many trailblazers in the fight for equality in tennis, most notably Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. Gibson, inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971, broke a major barrier when she entered the U.S. National Championships at Forest Hills in 1950. Attaining the World No. 1 ranking and capturing Wimbledon and U.S. National titles twice, Gibson personified the struggle for equal opportunity in previously restricted tournaments. Arthur Ashe, inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985, was the first African American male to capture a Grand Slam singles title (1968 U.S. Open). Adding to his 13 career titles and spectacular Davis Cup play, Ashe was a pioneer of causes for the underprivileged, co-founding the National Junior Tennis League in 1969. There are other stories told as well, notably, the influence of early mentor, Dr. Robert Walter Johnson, known as Dr. J. As founder and director of the ATA Junior Development Program, Johnson worked tirelessly to gain admittance for his young players into previously segregated tournaments. Breaking The Barriers also showcases the unheralded champions of the ATA before tennis was integrated; names in the spotlight include Jimmie McDaniel, Dr. Reginald Weir, George Stewart, Tally Holmes, Gerald Norman, Oscar Johnson, Lucy Diggs Slowe, Ora Mae Washington, Isadora Channels and the Peters sisters.  The exhibit will also highlight Bay Area stars such as Mark Manning, Raquel Kopps, Don Johnson, Barbara Lewis, Tayler Davis and the Chang Family. The exhibition is co-sponsored by the United States Tennis Association – Northern California, and is a key component of a new USTA NorCal initiative, Beyond The Baseline: Leading the way in bringing tennis & education programs to grassroots communities. Related Exhibit: They Were First: African Americans in Sports. This exhibition, created by San Francisco Public Library’s African American Center, pays homage to great leaders of the past such as Fritz Pollard, the first African American to head coach for an NFL team, Oliver Lewis, the first African American winner of the Kentucky Derby, Vonetta Flowers, the first African American to win a medal in any winter Olympics game and many others.  In visuals and text, the story of African American sports unfolds.  Main Library, Skylight Gallery, September 14, 2013 – January 5, 2014 About U.S.T.A. Northern California and the Northern California Tennis Foundation The United States Tennis Association (U.S.T.A.) is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S. and the leader in promoting and developing the growth of tennis at every level -- from local communities to the highest level of the professional game.  U.S.T.A. owns and operates the U.S. Open, the highest attended annual sporting event in the world, and launched the Emirates Airline U.S. Open Series linking ten summer tournaments to the U.S. Open. U.S.T.A. Northern California (U.S.T.A. NorCal) is one of 17 sections of the U.S.T.A. whose mission is to promote and develop the growth of tennis as an inclusive and inviting lifetime activity within the region. A not-for-profit organization with approximately 38,000 adult members, 14,000 junior members and over 400 organization members,  U.S.T.A. NorCal invests 100% of its proceeds into growing the game. Its philanthropic entity, the Northern California Tennis Foundation (N.C.T.F.), is a public supported tax exempt charity founded in 2010 (EIN # 263688410) which supports community based grassroots tennis and education programs and underserved tennis playing youth with grants and scholarships. About Beyond The Baseline Beyond The Baseline means providing opportunity, access and resources to disadvantaged youth from all communities to enable them to play tennis and excel in academics through organized community tennis and education programs. Earlier this year USTA NorCal hosted an event on the recreation field at Google headquarters (Mountain View CA), bringing together Google employees, USTA volunteers and youth from surrounding underserved Bay Area communities in cooperation with East Palo Alto YMCA, East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring and College Track. This event was the first in a series of strategic engagement events for employees of Silicon Valley to be followed by NetApp (Sunnyvale, CA) in October. This November, USTA NorCal continues the initiative. Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, wife of tennis legend Arthur Ashe, will make a special appearance at USTA NorCal’s Beyond The Baseline - Honoring the Legacy of Arthur Ashe and Community Tennis Heroes. This inaugural event is taking place on November 7, 2013 at The Galleria at San Francisco Design Center. More information is available online. MEDIA CONTACTS: Michelle Jeffers San Francisco Public Library (415) 557-4282 Michael DeFlorimonte michaelD. Communications 415.203.9801
September 27, 2013