The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum will present a special exhibit at the 2007 US Open entitled Breaking The Barriers: The ATA and Black Tennis Pioneers. The exhibit will be on view in Louis Armstrong Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center starting August 25 through September 9.
Breaking The Barriers blends photos, newspaper accounts, video, and player memorabilia to create a lively, informative and thought provoking experience.
The exhibit also describes the origins and history of the American Tennis Association (ATA), established in 1916 to promote the sport of tennis and to help blacks gain access to tournament tennis. In addition the unheralded champions of early black tennis will be featured.
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. (Visit the online celebration of the remarkable life and times of Gibson, who will be inducted into the USTA Court of Champions in a special opening night ceremony.)
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 US 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.
While the accomplishments of Gibson and Ashe are an important part of the exhibit, there are other stories told as well - notably, the influence of their early mentor, Dr. Robert Walter Johnson. "Dr. J", over the course of several decades, taught promising young black players the rudiments of the game, as well as instilling the ideals of sportsmanship, self discipline and quiet persistence. 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 will also showcase 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 US Open Gallery is open daily during the 2007 US Open. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is a non profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, enshrining tennis heroes and heroines and providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide. The International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, was the site of the first U.S. National Tennis Championships in 1881, the tournament that evolved into today's US Open. For more information on the exhibit Breaking the Barriers, or the International Tennis Hall of Fame and its programs, go to www.tennisfame.com.