Born in Richmond, Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) was a star tennis player and humanitarian.
He contracted HIV during heart bypass surgery in 1983 and publicly announced his illness in 1992.
Prior to his death in 1993, Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale received permission from Ashe to sculpt him. In 1994, Richmonders were already fundraising for a statue of Ashe, and former Governor Douglas Wilder was among those calling for it to be placed on Monument Avenue.
By June 23, 1995, the City Planning Commission had given Virginia Heroes, the group funding the monument, the go-ahead to erect the monument at Roseneath and Monument, just outside the Monument Avenue historic district.
After the location became public, citizens flooded City Council phone lines with complaints. The public debate was divisive and made national headlines. City Council members openly argued over different sites, while Black and white Richmonders both supported and strongly opposed the plan. Many criticized the artistic quality of the sculpture, going so far as to propose an international competition to replace DiPasquale’s design.
After a six-hour public meeting on July 17, 1995, City Council finally voted in support of the site at Roseneath and Monument. On July 10, 1996, DiPasquale and a group of children officially unveiled the Arthur Ashe Monument on what would have been Ashe’s 53rd birthday. Former Governor Douglas Wilder spoke at the event, stating: “Monument Avenue is now an avenue for all people.”
A small group of protestors waived Confederate flags and signs at the 1996 event. After the monuments to Lee, Stuart, Davis, Jackson, and Maury came down in 2020, the Arthur Ashe Monument is the only remaining monument on Richmond’s famous Monument Avenue.
|Authors||Christina K. Vida|
|Work Title||Monument Avenue: Arthur Ashe Monument|
|Published||February 23, 2013|
|Updated||November 2, 2023|
|Copyright||© 2023 The Valentine Museum|