|Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson; courtesy of SFPL|
Highlights of the exhibition include an excellent documentary on the contributions of tennis professional Don Johnson. He describes his own trajectory as being one from "Brooklyn to the [Tennis] Hall of Frame." A legendary tennis instructor and mentee of Arthur Ashe, Johnson has made tennis accessible and affordable to the Northern California youth he teaches.
Also of interest was the role of the black press in making details of matches accessible to the general public. Newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Courier, New York Amsterdam News and Chicago Defender circulated news of local and state matches within their pages. These facts went largely unreported in the mainstream press.
The exhibit also stresses the importance of historical context. "Breaking the Barriers" juxtaposes visuals and factoids of African-American achievements in the sport with the more grim social reality of segregation and state violence.
We were able to talk with librarian Kai Wilson, as well as visitors to the exhibit. Here is audio from those conversations.
Written by Toni