How American Sports Challenged the Black Freedom Struggle
Publication Year: 2013
In 1968, noted sociologist Harry Edwards established the Olympic Project for Human Rights, calling for a boycott of that year's games in Mexico City as a demonstration against racial discrimination in the United States and around the world. Though the boycott never materialized, Edwards's ideas struck a chord with athletes and incited African American Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos to protest by raising their black-gloved fists on the podium after receiving their medals. Sidelined draws upon a wide range of historical materials and more than forty oral histories with athletes and administrators to explore how the black athletic revolt used professional and college sports to promote the struggle for civil rights in the late 1960s. Author Simon Henderson argues that, contrary to popular perception, sports reinforced the status quo since they relegated black citizens to stereotypical roles in society. By examining activists' successes and failures in promoting racial equality on one of the most public stages in the world, Henderson sheds new light on an often-overlooked subject and gives voice to those who fought for civil rights both on the field and off.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
List of Illustrations
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...
Chapter 1. Locating the Black Athletic Revolt in the Black Freedom Struggle
In the history of the United States, 1968 was no ordinary year. It was as if a decade’s worth of turmoil, of social and political upheaval, had been condensed into one tumultuous twelve-month period. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were both assassinated. The Tet Offensive seemed to condemn American hopes for victory in Vietnam. Students brought...
Chapter 2. The Olympic Project for Human Rights
At the beginning of 1967, Ralph Boston was the long jump world record holder, having set the mark of eight meters, thirty-five centimeters two years previous. That was his fourth world record and he could also boast a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics and a silver medal in the Tokyo Games four years later. Boston was therefore a very likely candidate to make the...
Chapter 3. The Black Athletic Revolt on Campus
Far from the political activism surrounding Harry Edwards, the sprinters of Speed City, and the Harvard rowers was the University of Kansas athletics department. The institution’s teams were known as the Jayhawks— as a reference to the violence and turmoil of the Civil War era—and were members of the Big Eight Conference. In 1968 they would improve on...
Chapter 4. Black Gloves and Gold Medals
Ralph Boston arrived at his third Olympics with the hope that he could add to the gold and silver medals he already possessed. The favorite to win gold in the long jump was Bob Beamon. He was one of a group of athletes who had been suspended from the University of Texas at El Paso earlier in the season for taking part in a protest against the racist practices...
Chapter 5. Beyond Mexico City
In 1969, the University of Wyoming Cowboys were dominating the Western Athletic Conference football standings. By the middle of October, they were unbeaten and ranked just outside the top ten college teams in the country. Coach Lloyd Eaton ran a talented and racially integrated...
Chapter 6. Dixie and the Absence of a Black Athletic Revolt
Eddie Brown was a young white football fan in the eighth grade when his Tennessee school integrated. His father was a big fan of the University of Tennessee Volunteers and took his son to his first game when he was seven years old. Eddie fell in love with the orange and whites and made his mind up at an early age that he wanted to play for the university team. In 1970...
In March 2011 black Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall stirred controversy when he supported comments by Adrian Peterson, his Minnesota Vikings counterpart, that playing in the NFL was like modern-day slavery. Mendenhall posted on his Twitter page, “Anyone with knowledge of the slave trade and the NFL could say that these two...
Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century
Series Editor Byline: Steven F. Lawson & Cynthia G. Fleming See more Books in this Series
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