The Black Bruins: The Remarkable Lives of UCLA's Jackie Robinson, Woody Strode, Tom Bradley, Kenny Washington, and Ray Bartlett

The Black Bruins: The Remarkable Lives of UCLA's Jackie Robinson, Woody Strode, Tom Bradley, Kenny Washington, and Ray Bartlett

The Black Bruins: The Remarkable Lives of UCLA's Jackie Robinson, Woody Strode, Tom Bradley, Kenny Washington, and Ray Bartlett

The Black Bruins: The Remarkable Lives of UCLA's Jackie Robinson, Woody Strode, Tom Bradley, Kenny Washington, and Ray Bartlett

Synopsis

The Black Bruins chronicles the inspirational lives of five African American athletes who faced racial discrimination as teammates at UCLA in the late 1930s. Best known among them was Jackie Robinson, a four‑star athlete for the Bruins who went on to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball and become a leader in the civil rights movement after his retirement. Joining him were Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, and Ray Bartlett. The four played starring roles in an era when fewer than a dozen major colleges had black players on their rosters. This rejection of the "gentleman's agreement," which kept teams from fielding black players against all-white teams, inspired black Angelinos and the African American press to adopt the teammates as their own.

Washington became the first African American player to sign with an NFL team in the post-World War II era and later became a Los Angeles police officer and actor. Woody Strode, a Bruin football and track star, broke into the NFL with Washington in 1946 as a Los Angeles Ram and went on to act in at least fifty‑seven full-length feature films. Ray Bartlett, a football, basketball, baseball, and track athlete, became the second African American to join the Pasadena Police Department, later donating his time to civic affairs and charity. Tom Bradley, a runner for the Bruins' track team, spent twenty years fighting racial discrimination in the Los Angeles Police Department before being elected the first black mayor of Los Angeles.

Excerpt

Expectations were high at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the fall of 1939, when sixty football players turned out for practice for the coming season. the Bruins’ new coach, Edwin C. “Babe” Horrell, gathered the players on a beautiful fall day on the practice field perched on a hill above Los Angeles. If the wind blew in the right direction, the sweet salty smell of the Pacific Ocean, seven miles away, wafted across the field.

UCLA’s expectations were heightened not only by a new coach, but also by the return of two stars for theirelcomed two junior college All-Americans from nearby Pasadena Junior College.

The upcoming season also had an important subplot: the two seniors and two All-Americans on the sixty-player roster were African Americans. That was an unprecedented number on one team at a time when perhaps no more than thirty-eight African American players were on traditionally white football teams across the country, virtually none of whom received much playing time. Three of the black players were starters; the fourth earned plenty of playing time. “Three African American players out of eleven in the starting lineup was highly unusual for the time,” says Kent Stephens, curator and historian for the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana. Twenty-two years later, it still wasn’t common to see even two African American starters on most college football teams, Stephens notes.

The black players on the ucla team made it the most racially . . .

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