Sport and the Color Line: Black Athletes and Race Relations in Twentieth-Century America

Sport and the Color Line: Black Athletes and Race Relations in Twentieth-Century America

Sport and the Color Line: Black Athletes and Race Relations in Twentieth-Century America

Sport and the Color Line: Black Athletes and Race Relations in Twentieth-Century America


Includes biographical sketches of Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Muhammed Ali and Michael JordanExamines the intersection of race and sports as well as the rise of the sports figure as endorsement franchiseIncludes 35 photographs


Ultimately, this book is about the long and arduous struggle to relegate Jim Crow to the sidelines in American sport during the course of the twentieth century. It thus chronicles an earlier era when segregation prevailed in national pastimes and when black people, South and North, created their own athletic institutions even as they made every effort to challenge racism on the playing fields and beyond. To show how sport became a distinctive element within the larger civil rights movement would be to illuminate the complex processes of desegregation: political acumen and hard work characterized the experiences of racial reformers in sport, but their story cannot be told without reference to the terrible uncertainty that they faced at every turn. The performances of black athletes also inform this volume, although the larger project of the pieces assembled here is to discuss the meanings of athletic triumph and travail-to underscore the significance of sport in reinforcing black pride and reshaping the culture and consciousness of the nation. Clearly, the ways that black bodies in motion have been assessed-and reevaluated over time-is a topic that speaks to broader concerns about race relations, identity, and power in the recent American past.

It is no simple task to highlight the importance of sport in community formation, integrationist strategies, and cultural representation in the troubled history of race relations in the United States. Numerous themes and cases have been treated by scholars in a variety of fields, from history and sociology to folklore and media studies. So we needed to be selective. The contributors we chose for this volume have been expansive in their approaches to the role of sport in society, and we are grateful that many of them have revised and updated their pieces for Sport and the Color Line. Beyond their efforts, we are assisted in tracking down images to fit the articles by Lee Brumbaugh of the Nevada Historical Society, Wayne Wilson of the Amateur Athletic Foundation in Los Angeles, and Steve Gietshier of The Sporting News. Colleagues and friends, most notably Paul Spickard, provided essential background information and ideas about the framing of the issues treated here. Others, including Klaus Benesch and Kerstin Schmidt of the University of Bayreuth in Germany, provided an ideal intellectual setting for the final acts of editing this volume.

At Northeastern Illinois University, J. Matt Byerly spent considerable time creating the design for first draft of the cover of this volume. At Routledge, we were encouraged from the outset of our project by Karen Wolny and assisted time and again by Jaclyn Bergeron. Daniel Montero did stellar work as our copyeditor, and Nicole Ellis showed both patience and perseverance in moving our manuscript through the production process. Lamentably, we could not include all the scholarship that surveys the African American experience in sport, but we have been highly impressed by our readings of late. For the future, we anticipate rich new studies of the role of athletic achievement in the larger campaign for equality and opportunity in the United States and even more sophisticated interrogations of modern media images of black athletic performance.

PBM, Isla Vista, California

DKW, Fairfax, Virginia

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