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Men's College Athletics and the Politics of Racial Equality

Five Pioneer Stories of Black Manliness, White Citizenship, and American Democracy

Gregory J Kaliss

Publication Year: 2012

College sports have provided a compelling means to discuss issues regarding racial equality and fairness in American life. As previously-white institutions of higher learning gradually (and grudgingly) opened their playing fields to African-American athletes in men's basketball and football, black and white spectators interpreted mixed-race team sports in often contradictory ways. In Men's College Athletics and the Politics of Racial Equality, Gregory Kaliss offers stunning insights into Americans' contested visions of equality, fairness, black manhood, citizenship, and an equal opportunity society.

Kaliss looks at Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Wilt Chamberlain, Charlie Scott, John Mitchell, Wilbur Marshall, and Bear Bryant to show how Americans responded to racial integration over time. Men's College Athletics and the Politics of Racial Equality reveals that as fans, media members, university students, faculty, and administration—black and white—discussed the achievements and struggles of these athletes, they inevitably talked about much more than what occurred on the field.

Published by: Temple University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

Writing this book required the support of countless individuals and institutions. The following funding made the completion of this project possible: the Mowry Dissertation Fellowship for Research from the University of North Carolina (UNC) History Department; the Off-Campus Dissertation Research Fellowship from...

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Introduction: College Sports, “Fair Play,” and Black Masculinity

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pp. 1-11

In November 1939, the editors of the Crisis, the monthly publication of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), nominated a rather unusual “honor roll.” Instead of successful black students, or even black businesses or schools, the...

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1. “Our Own ‘Roby’” and “the Dark Cloud”: Paul Robesonat Rutgers, 1915–1919

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pp. 12-40

Spectators at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York, on the afternoon of November 24, 1917, witnessed a remarkable sight: deliriously excited white Rutgers College football fans storming the field and carrying a black player by the name of Paul Robeson on their...

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2. “Harbingers of Progress” and “the Gold Dust Trio”: Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Jackie Robinson, and the 1939 UCLA Football Team

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pp. 41-73

In the November 18, 1939, issue of the Washington (D.C.) Afro-American, sports editor Sam Lacy could not contain his excitement. As the college football season wound down, it was not the local black colleges and universities, such as Howard University, that inspired Lacy’s...

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3. “A First-Class Gentleman” and “That Big N——r”: Wilt Chamberlain at the University of Kansas, 1955–1958

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pp. 74-108

Standing more than seven feet tall and moving with an agility and grace uncommon to big men, Wilt Chamberlain nearly always attracted the attention of those around him; he quite literally stood out in a crowd. Even on the basketball court, surrounded by other tall...

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4. “Our Colored Boy” and “Fine Black Athletes”: Charlie Scott at the University of North Carolina, 1965–1970

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pp. 109-137

Charlie Scott was a harbinger of things to come in more ways than one. On the basketball court, Scott augured a different style of play and a new model of player. Previously, guards had been little guys, quick and skilled with the ball, but floor-bound and focused...

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5. “Those Nigras” and “Men Again”: Bear Bryant, John Mitchell, and Wilbur Jackson at the University of Alabama, 1969–1973

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pp. 138-171

In August 1970, A. M. “Tonto” Coleman, the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), the athletic association of the most prominent (and predominantly white) universities of the Deep South, wrote an impassioned column in which he described the moral worth...

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Conclusion: What We Talk about When We Talk about Sports

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pp. 172-180

The centrality of sports to debates over race and equality would continue in the years after 1973, but the early 1970s marked an important era of transition—with the integration of the last SEC schools, racial segregation in big-time college athletics (at least among players)...


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pp. 181-218


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pp. 219-227


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pp. 229-236

About the Author

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pp. 237

E-ISBN-13: 9781439908587
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439908563

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012