Skip to main content

Tennis Channel Bows Ashe Biography

Tennis Channel will premiere the first authorized television biography of tennis legend and activist, the late Arthur Ashe.

The latest chapter to Tennis Channel’s Signature Series will bow on Sunday, August 31 at 11 p.m. (ET) following the conclusion of the network’s live coverage from the U.S. Open Tennis Championships and the court that bears the subject’s name.

The Signature Series: Arthur Ashe documentary delves into the professional and personal lives of a man, who like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali, broke down color barriers and affected human right issues. Check out a clip here.

An eventual world No. 1, Ashe began as an outsider in tennis, an African-American unable to play junior tournaments -- or even walk onto the same court with a white opponent -- because of racial segregation laws in his home state of Virginia. But he went on to lead UCLA to the collegiate tennis championship and became the first African-American to play for the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1963. Ashe’s accomplishments on the court also made him the first and only black man to win the U.S. Open, the Australian Open and Wimbledon, among his 33 career titles.

"Arthur Ashe's legacy transcends tennis and even sports, and this is a story that simply had to be told," said Tennis Channel chairman and CEO Ken Solomon. "For the first time television audience will experience Arthur in the context of history and learn why he was one of the greatest social leaders our world has seen."

On those fronts, the documentary explores Ashe’s protests of South African apartheid and his championing of human rights, as well as protests on U.S. crackdowns on Haitian refugees that included two arrests. Ashe was also an educational advocate as a founding member of National Junior Tennis and Learning.

Ashe also provided wisdom in his death from AIDs. In 1992, Ashe he announced that he had contracted the disease from a blood transfusion years earlier while receiving treatment after heart surgery. He became an early and public face for raising awareness about the disease, working with his wife Jeannne, helped to bring attention to AIDS by founding the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS, which generated funds for study into treating, curing and preventing the disease, with the eventual goal of finding a cure. He brought light to the plight of AIDS victims by speaking before the U.N. General Assembly, inciting a call to action for delegates to increase funding for research and see the virus as a global issue. At the local level, Ashe also founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. He designed the institute to address poor health care delivery issues amongst urban minorities. Ashe died in 1993 of AIDS-related pneumonia.