Ethnicity and Sport in North American History and Culture

By George Eisen; David K. Wiggins | Go to book overview

Introduction

George Eisen

There are many voices that describe to us the building of America. The past century and a half has often been considered one of the most tumultuous epochs in American history. With unbridled optimism and staunch belief in a better life, and fueling an economic expansion on a scale unheard of before, waves upon waves of impoverished human masses arrived at the gates of America. A brilliant meeting and meshing of old-line Anglo-Saxon cultural and political values and vibrant new ideas from the Old Continent took place in this one hundred and fifty year time span. During these same years, a steady migration of African-Americans, escaping an economic blight and virulent discrimination from the rural South to the industrialized North, added to this dramatic change in the face of America. These newly arrived people not only formed and reformed the demographic landscape of the United States but also helped form the intellectual and cultural texture of American life.

One of the missing elements in this story are the ethnic contributions to American sport. Indeed, sport in our country cannot be considered anything but ethnic-based. Among the many social and cultural institutions, sport assumed a unique, though often misconstrued, role of uniting, integrating, and socializing these newcomers into mainstream America. How successful sport has been in accomplishing this task is still the subject of debate. Yet, with all this interest, sport has remained one of the most sparsely charted territories of this epoch. This book relates ethnic experiences in sport during the years from 1840 to 1990 in the United States and Canada. More specifically, it chronicles sport as a social and cultural institution through which various ethnic and racial groups attempted to gain social and psychological acceptance and cultural integration. The fact that this mechanism almost totally failed to remedy social inequality, as well as institutionalized racism, sexism, and discrimi

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