Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White America

By David K. Wiggins | Go to book overview

6
"The Year of Awakening" Black Athletes, Racial Unrest, and the Civil Rights Movement of 1968

The year was pivotal and messy," wrote the staff writer Lance Morrow in a cover story for Time magazine. "It produced vivid theater. It reverberates still in the American mind."1 The year Morrow referred to was 1968, a turbulent period marked by campus uprisings, racial unrest, deaths of heroes, military escalation, political turmoil, and a youth movement that challenged American moral and economic values.

The year began with North Korea's capture of the USS Pueblo and ended with Apollo 8's circling of the moon. Sandwiched between these two historic events were such incidents as the launching of the Tet offensive in Saigon, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, student rebellion at Columbia University, a poor people's march in Washington, D.C., and riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention. Those who lived through 1968 carry indelible memories of Richard Nixon saying "Sock it to me," Dustin Hoffman being seduced by Anne Bancroft, and the Rolling Stones singing about the Street- Fighting Man. The year severed past from future, signaling the end of Lyndon Johnson's great social vision and the Civil Rights struggle while ushering in the Women's Liberation Movement and newfound interest in environmental issues. Each event during the year seemed to be a momentous occasion and played out with an unusually high degree of intensity, except perhaps for Goldie Hawn's dancing in body paint and Tiny Tim's "tiptoeing through the tulips." In all, 1968 combined both revolutionary bombast and spiritual fulfillment, ecstacy and self-destruction, success and failure.2

Black athletes formed one group that was highly visible in 1968 and went through alternating periods of success and failure. For example, shortly before the Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl victory over the Oak-

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