Ashe played tennis at Brookfield Park, not Battery Park

7/14/2017, 10:43 a.m.

Re: “Ashe mural to be unveiled at Battery Park on July 12,” Free Press July 6-8 edition:

I had started writing a letter about the myth of Arthur Ashe playing tennis in Battery Park when I saw the letter to the editor by Kathryn L. Reid in the June 29-July 1 edition of the Free Press. I thought the matter had been addressed and corrected, but I see the myth is still alive and being promoted.

In 1950, my father moved our family to the 2700 block of Griffin Avenue, which was two blocks from Battery Park. Because the neighborhood was changing, the City of Richmond stopped maintaining the park. There were tennis courts but no nets. The surface was not maintained on the side of the park north of Overbrook Road. And things were not much better on the south side, where the basketball courts and swings were located. The swings were in such disrepair that my father purchased a set for my sister and myself.

For years, black Richmonders traveled to Brookfield Park to learn to swim. “Stretch” Gardner, the basketball coach at Maggie L. Walker High School, taught me to swim in the pool. When it came to baseball, a little farther up were several baseball diamonds, where Charles Nicholson, who taught at Benjamin A. Graves Middle School, was our coach.

Between the pool and the baseball diamonds at Brookfield were four tennis courts where I played tennis until I left Richmond to attend Howard University in 1964. Mr. Ashe lived next door to those courts. This is where he played. He left Richmond in 1960 to go to St. Louis to finish high school and on to UCLA, where he graduated in 1966.

Separate and much better facilities were provided for white Richmonders at Byrd Park.

The American narrative is full of lies and half-truths about slavery and the genocide of Native American people. As an institution in the black community, the Free Press needs to acknowledge the truth in this matter and help set the record straight. There should be a historic marker placed at the site of Brookfield Park.

Richmond during this time was very separate and very unequal. To say otherwise negates the suffering and hardships so many went through during those times.



The writer serves on the board of directors of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.