Our film is the first look at the Arthur Ashe nobody knows. It tells the complex tale of a champion athlete’s defining moment and his rise to fame and activism amid a tumultuous year of demonstrations and assassinations. We witness the behind the scenes story of Ashe’s historic 1968 victory and his personal connections to the icons of the day, like Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Their assassinations compel him to find his own voice, but he needs a platform. His historic 1968 US Open win presents him to the world as a new kind of champion. The film goes beyond sports to examine how he created his own unique blueprint for Civil Rights advancement — long-term and intentional —not only for African-Americans, but for disenfranchised and oppressed people throughout the world, reflected in his long and deep commitment to ending apartheid in South Africa. In 1968, Lieutenant Arthur Ashe is residing at West Point, has a brother in the Marines fighting in the Vietnam jungles, and close, personal connections to both King and Kennedy. His early ties to an imprisoned Nelson Mandela become the foundation for his deep commitment to ending apartheid. “There were times,” Ashe said, “when I felt a burning sense of shame that I was not with blacks—and whites—standing up to the fire hoses and police dogs.” Previously, Ashe was the only black player on tour, but not yet a champion. Throughout the summer of ‘68 there was pressure put on him to boycott the upcoming US Open. “If I chose not to play (to boycott the tennis tour), who’d miss me? People don’t listen to losers. I can make my protest heard by winning.”
A unique and proprietary archive from the John G. Zimmerman archive is an important component of the film Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe (Arthur’s wife) is a Producer for the project. On behalf of the Ashe Estate, she has been involved since its inception, giving an unprecedented interview for the film, approval of private, never-before-seen archival material, and facilitating relationships with those who were closest to Arthur. Johnnie Ashe (Arthur’s brother) has also given approval and is closely involved with the project.