Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball

Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball

Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball

Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball

Synopsis

The campaign to desegregate baseball was one of the most important civil rights stories of the 1930s and 1940s. But most of white America knew nothing about this story because mainstream newspapers said little about the colour line and less about the efforts to end it. Even today, as far as most Americans know, the integration of baseball revolved around Branch Rickey's signing of Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers' organization in 1945. This book shows how Rickey's move, critical as it may well have been, came after more than a decade of work by black and left-leaning journalists to desegregate the game. Drawing on hundreds of newspaper articles and interviews with journalists, Chris Lamb reveals how differently black and white newspapers, and black and white America, viewed racial equality. He shows how white mainstream sportswriters perpetuated the colour line by participating in what their black counterparts called a conspiracy of silence. Between 1933 and 1945, black newspapers and the Communist Daily Worker published hundreds of articles and editorials calling for an end to baseball's colour line. The efforts of the alternative presses to end baseball's colour line, chronicled for the first time in Conspiracy of Silence, constitute one of baseball's and the civil rights movement's great untold stories.

Excerpt

On February 5, 1933, the inside of the grand ballroom of New York City’s Commodore Hotel crackled with laughter during an evening of songs, skits, and speeches at the tenth annual New York Baseball Writers’ Association dinner. Sportswriters took turns spoofing everyone from the guest of honor, retired New York Giants manager John McGraw, to the New York Yankees, who had defeated the Chicago Cubs in the World Series the previous October. In addition, sportswriters performed their annual minstrel show to the delight of the all-white crowd of several hundred. New York Times sportswriter John Drebinger called the minstrel show the main entertainment for the evening. “I’m still laughing,” Dan Daniel, the president of the association, gushed in his column in the Sporting News. Writers, ballplayers, and owners sat together with politicians, judges, businessmen, and ministers to laugh but also to glorify baseball and to honor those who made the game great. New York Yankees pitcher Herb Pennock received the . . .

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