Introduction: African Americans and the History of Sport-New Perspectives

By Brooks, Scott N.; Blackman, Dexter | The Journal of African American History, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Introduction: African Americans and the History of Sport-New Perspectives


Brooks, Scott N., Blackman, Dexter, The Journal of African American History


The importance of sports to American society is evident when watching television or reading popular magazines. Companies hire athletes to endorse their products and services, while masculinity and femininity are represented by athleticism, hard work and sweat, normative ideas of attractiveness, and fit bodies. While most people understand that the probability of a child becoming a professional athlete is remote, the dream of becoming a professional football, basketball, or baseball player is common for youth across race and class, particularly for males. Often, this dream is one of several youthful dreams that eventually fades, but, for many African Americans, dreams of professional athletic stardom are not so easily abandoned. (1)

Black athletic achievement has often been excluded, downplayed, infantilized, or pathologized. Sadly, this has led to little scholarship historically on African Americans and sport. In 1939 Edwin B. Henderson's The Negro in Sports offered a mosaic of black athletic heroism, the strong work ethic and personal struggles, which he hoped would illuminate black success in sports and serve as evidence of black progress and increased acceptance by whites. A. S. "Doc" Young's Negro Firsts in Sports, published in 1963, documented the pioneering efforts of black sportswomen and men and the ups and downs of black inclusion in sports in the United States. In both of these works, a wide range of sports is coveied, rather than going into any depth to document the length of time African Americans had been involved, or their ability to master and excel as athletes. (2)

The most recent historical account of the African American experience in sports is David K. Wiggins and Patrick B. Miller's The Unlevel Playing Field, a compilation of writings and commentary from leading African American athletes and intellectual figures over time from Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. Du Bois to Rafer Johnson. Wiggins and Miller's selections document the achievements of the most famous black athletes in their time and their experiences with white racism in their fields of competition. With the inclusion of expert commentary, this work shows how black leaders viewed athletics and African American athletes' contributions to the "advancement of the race." (3)

Robert Peterson and the late tennis legend and civil rights activist Arthur Ashe, Jr. added depth to the study of sports by investigating the experiences of African American athletes in numerous sports. Peterson covered African American experiences in baseball and basketball in two volumes. Only the Ball Was White and Cages to Jumpshots. (4) Each book details the beginning of African Americans in baseball and basketball and the development of all-black leagues and teams, and ultimately the integration of African Americans into the major professional leagues. Arthur Ashe extended Peterson's task by writing a three-volume history of African and African American involvement in sports from 1619 until 1991 in A Hard Road to Glory, and then added five more in-depth studies of the black athlete in boxing, track and field, baseball, football, and basketball. For each specific study, Ashe offered a lengthy reference section that includes the names of black athletes who first competed in the sport and their dates of involvement, how black college teams performed in the sport, and lists of noteworthy players (all-stars in most cases) for each college and professional organization through 1991. (5)

Some other works have contributed to a greater understanding of African Americans' participation in sports and their impact on particular sports. Ron Thomas's They Cleared the Lane: The NBA's Black Pioneers profiled the first black professionals in the National Basketball Assocation and their athletic style, contributions, and fortitude in dealing with ongoing racism. In Bob Kuska's Hot Potato: How Washington and New York Gave Birth to Black Basketball and Changed Americas Game Forever, "blackness" is considered an aesthetic, demonstrating athleticism and creativity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Introduction: African Americans and the History of Sport-New Perspectives
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.