Black Tennis Magazine

BT Magazine is proud to be the publication for the membership of the American Tennis Association.

 

 

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History of BT Magazine . . .

 

A Brief History

 

"BLACK TENNIS MAGAZINE" was created in 1977 as a news organ to inform the public about the outstanding achievements of black tennis players in the United States. The inspiration of this type of journalism came from the inadequate coverage of black tennis players who won local and state events in Texas. One major tournament in the state of Texas was won by a couple of youngsters who won both singles and doubles in their age group, but received no coverage in the media. It appeared at this time that the news media appropriately omitted including the names of these black youngsters as winners in this big event because of their race.

If this type of journalism existed in Texas, the editor concluded that it probably was carried on in all sections of the United States. After careful research, the previous conclusion proved to be correct.

Immediate efforts were made to gather news, names, clubs, and events that included the top black tennis stars who played on the tennis circuit. It was amazing and almost unbelievable as to how many outstanding black players and organizations existed and functioned in the U.S. and in other parts of the world.

The first edition of BT Magazine was limited in scope, covering major tournaments in Texas and the Southwest. The idea at this time, June 1977, was to highlight black tennis players who had some promise for entering the mainstream of the tennis world in the future. Through careful research, the editor was able to find many young black players in the public schools, colleges and universities. Tournament results, club activities, outstanding players, and junior superstars of the future were presented in the early issues of the magazine. Many pictures, illustrations, and photographs were used to produce a "show and tell" effect for the readers.

At this time, BT magazine was only an eight page newsletter with a newspaper format. Outstanding players in the Southwest Athletic conference (SWAC), a conference composed of Prairie View A.&M. University, Texas Southern University, Southern University, Alcorn A.&M., and Mississippi Valley State University received most of the news coverage.

Some of the to players were: Terence Jackson of California, ATA National champ in 1976 and 1977; Benny Sims of Beaumont, Texas, NAIA singles champ in 1975, NAIA doubles champ in 1976, and ATA singles champ in 1975: Cedric Loeb, singles and doubles finalist in the ATA National Championships in 1978; Lawrence "Cornbread" King of California; and Stan Franker, NAIA singles champion from California.  Leslie Allen and Lisa Foxworth were two well-known ladies who played in this that received extensive coverage in the magazine.

Herbert Provost, Texas Southern University's tennis coach and SWAC "Coach of the Year," 1971-77, recruited top black players from all parts of the globe to play for him during this time. Coach Provost's business expertise, coaching strategy and success as a promoter attracted most of the top black players to the area.  The Ebony Tennis Classic, a tennis tournament promoted by Provost, provided many stories and profiles on top players, celebrities, and politicians from around the globe.

Also, Provost organized a group of professional tennis players that included: Jesse Holt, Marrell Harmon, Stan Franker, Melvin McCurley, Cedric Loeb, Horace Reid, and Benny Sims that played a prescribed circuit for prize money. The American Tennis Association's National Junior Tennis Program was conducted this same year (1977) at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas under the direction of Coach Provost.  Arthur Ashe conducted clinics during this program for some of the top ATA juniors from all regions of the U.S.

Clifton Johnson, a NAIA champion, produced newsworthy players from his team while he served as head tennis coach at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA. Melvin McCurley, the 1977 SWAC singles champion was one of his team members.

John Wilkerson, another NAIA and ATA National Champion, provided the main impetus for a unique phase of the black tennis movement when he became head professional at Houston, Texas' Homer Ford Tennis Center (formerly McGregor Park Tennis Center). Through his junior development program, one that has been applauded by the USTA, TTA, ATA, and the national press, many opportunities became available for publicizing outstanding achievements of top black tennis players.

Zina Garrison, Lori McNeil and Kelvin Belcher, singles and doubles champions in amateur and professional tennis events over the years, are just two products of Wilkerson's program that provided many stories covered by BT magazine. In fact, BT magazine became a reality when the editor detected a void in the news media in regards to their coverage of the outstanding things done by Wilkerson and his players in tournaments in Texas and other parts of the U.S.

After such a dramatic response to the first issues of the publication, efforts were made to change the format to resemble a magazine. Volume 1, No.2, 1977, included 12 pages, 8 1/2 by 11 in. per page size, and designed in a magazine format. This new edition carried news from other cities as New York City, Denver, Little Rock, and New Orleans. Tournament results, outstanding players, junior tennis programs, and club activities conducted in these cities were highlights of these issues.

Advertisement from local banks, sporting goods stores, tennis equipment manufacturers, tennis pro shops, and general businesses was included in this issue.  The ability to get financial backing through the advertisement and the overall encouragement from so many readers, provided the necessary "spark" to make BT magazine a profitable reality.  Basic goals for the publication were set which included future efforts to expand news coverage; improve the format, design, and circulation; become a national publication; and secure the services of professional writers and tennis players to upgrade the editorial staff.

BT magazine became a national tennis publication in November, 1977 with the coverage of the American Tennis Association national championships in New Orleans, Louisiana and special feature articles about national figures as Arthur Ashe and Juan Farrow.  Events promoted by the American Tennis Association provided the bulk of the national news that spread throughout all regions of the U.S.

Also, the American Tennis Association provided a plethora of information about black tennis that made very interesting copy for the publication. Since 1916, most top-ranked black players have played in ATA tournaments. The most notable players are Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe.  There are countless others of lesser note as Jimmie McDaniel, Nehemiah Atkinson, "Whirlwind" Johnson, Bill Davis, and Chris Scott.

Besides the ATA Nationals, the ATA hosts tournaments throughout the year in major cities and states as New York, Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, Louisville, Hartford, New Jersey, Texas, New Orleans, Florida, San Diego, Chicago, Iowa, Philadelphia and Boston.  There are local ATA clubs in other areas that have outstanding junior development programs, team tennis, tournaments, and leagues.

In the March-April, 1978 issue of BT, special attention was given to the instructional phase of tennis. Tennis players and the general readership were asking for more information on how to improve their game. These requests were answered by a series of articles written about concentration, ways to combat the jitters, and how to hit various shots correctly on all levels - beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

The November-December, 1978 issue presented information on national tennis stars as Arthur Ashe, Yannick Noah, and John Lucas through the courtesy of BT's first contributing editor, A. J. Barnes.  Until this time, the magazine was a one man's operation where the editor did all of the writing, publishing, editing, selling, circulation, and distribution of the publication.

A. J. Barnes brought to the magazine a national perspective by her ability to cover major events as the U.S. Open, the French and Italian Opens, and Wimbledon.  Arthur Ashe was added to the staff during the same time. The "Ask Ashe" column provided a professional perspective for those serious-minded players and enthusiasts who sought up-to-date answers on tennis strategy, techniques, sophisticated tennis organizations as the ATP, USTA, or WTA, or questions about himself.

Today, in the year 2000, BT has added Vic Braden to its staff. Braden is one of the highest rated tennis authorities in the game. His background includes coaching world class players as Tracy Austin; the establishment of a tennis academy; the author of many books on tennis; and a very popular clinician and lecturer on the tennis circuit.

BT magazine is a 32-page publication that features tennis news and activities of minorities as they compete and participate in tennis related activities around the world. Special features include instruction; news, notes & quotes; sectional news; administration and organizational activities; junior development; college & university news; and news of professional men and women on the tour. The main objective of the publication is to serve as a reference for all news, activities, events and programs relating to minority tennis in all parts of the globe.

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