Sidelined: How American Sports Challenged the Black Freedom Struggle

Sidelined: How American Sports Challenged the Black Freedom Struggle

Sidelined: How American Sports Challenged the Black Freedom Struggle

Sidelined: How American Sports Challenged the Black Freedom Struggle

Excerpt

This book originated in the PhD thesis that I completed in 2010. The project started out as an examination of the response of white athletes to the black athletic revolt of the late 1960s. This was a movement that sought to expose the prevailing ideal of racial equality in the sporting world. What emerged as this investigation unfolded was the unique part played by sport in the wider black freedom struggle. The protests that made up the black athletic revolt on the national and local stage traversed the traditional historical frameworks applied to that struggle for equality. Athletes and administrators were involved in a protest dynamic that showed the interconnectedness of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. Reactions to the protests of both black and white athletes provided one dimension of the white backlash of the late 1960s. This backlash helped to stifle the full potential of sport to positively affect civil rights activism and, paradoxically, reinforced the ideal that sport was an area of society that led the way in the search for racial equality.

These developments took place during a transitional phase of the black freedom struggle. The black athletic revolt straddled the conventional paradigms of the fight for black civil rights. Traditional accounts of the freedom struggle in America in the 1960s have focused on the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. They have contrasted the tactics and strategies of these two strands of the struggle for equality. Taylor Branch, in Parting the Waters, refers to “America in the King years,” which he designates as 1954–1963. In his concluding comments Branch argues, “Kennedy’s murder marked the arrival of the freedom surge, just as King’s own death four years hence marked its demise.” In his survey of the fight for black equality from 1890 to 2000, Adam Fairclough devotes three chapters to the “non-violent rebellion” starting in 1955 and ending with the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He then examines the rise and fall of Black Power, beginning in 1965 and ending with the first years of the Nixon administration. The Civil Rights Movement has been framed as the period from the Brown v. Board of Education decision to the mid1960s, when a new period of Black Power activism began. In many of . . .

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