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Hundreds Attend Renaming Ceremony For Richmond's Arthur Ashe Boulevard

arthur ashe sign reveal

Richmond’s historic Boulevard has been officially renamed after African American tennis star and AIDS activist Arthur Ashe.

Local, state and national leaders attended the dedication ceremony Saturday on the lawn of the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. Hundreds of people attended the dedication, which coincided with the opening of the museum’s exhibit on the 400 years since the first African slaves arrived in Virginia.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney hailed Ashe as a “true champion.”

“Our city is transforming, it is changing its future and it’s triumphing over its past,” he said.

Ashe was born in Richmond in 1943 and grew up playing tennis on the segregated courts of Brookfield Park. He went on to become the only African American man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open. Ashe died in 1993 from AIDS-related pneumonia.

At Saturday’s ceremony, Virginia Senator and former Richmond Mayor Tim Kaine recalled the city’s controversial move to put a statue of Arthur Ashe alongside Confederate monuments a year after his death.

“The decision to place the Arthur Ashe statue on Monument Avenue was healing in a city, commonwealth, and country that still needs healing to this day,” Kaine said.

Richmond took another controversial step in February when it’s city council voted to rename one of its main thoroughfares after Ashe. That effort had failed twice before but passed unanimously, with only City Councilwoman Reva Trammell abstaining.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Representatives Donald McEachin, Karen Bass, and Bobby Scott, also attended the ceremony. Georgia congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis was the keynote speaker.

Lewis challenged the audience to take inspiration from Ashe and other activists and get into “some good trouble.”

“My philosophy is very simple: When you see something that is not right, say something, do something,” he said. “You cannot afford to be silent.”

City Councilwoman Kim Gray, who sponsored the ordinance to rename Arthur Ashe Boulevard, was invited on stage to reveal the new street signs. Stoney said the signs would be replaced along the thoroughfare by the end of the weekend.