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Out of the Shadows

A Biographical History of African American Athletes

Edited by David K. Wiggins

Publication Year: 2008

The original essays in this comprehensive collection examine the lives and sports of famous and not-so-famous African American male and female athletes from the nineteenth century to today. Here are twenty insightful biographies that furnish perspectives on the changing status of these athletes and how these changes mirrored the transformation of sports, American society, and civil rights legislation. Some of the athletes discussed include Marshall Taylor (bicycling), William Henry Lewis (football), Jack Johnson, Satchel Paige, Jesse Owens, Joe Lewis, Alice Coachman (track and field), Althea Gibson (tennis), Wilma Rudolph, Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Arthur Ashe, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Venus and Serena Williams.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xii

This book chronicles the lives of twenty prominent African American athletes who competed either behind segregated walls or in predominantly white organized sport or, in some cases, at both levels of sport. Written by noted academicians with long lists of major publications on various aspects of sport, each biography describes the respective athletes’ ...

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I. Striving for Athletic Success in a Jim Crow Society

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pp. 1-5

The first two African Americans to achieve fame and international notoriety in sport were Bill Richmond and Tom Molineaux. Richmond, born a free black on Staten Island, New York, in 1763, moved to England at the age of fourteen with the British commander Lord Percy. In London, he established a reputation as an outstanding boxer and trainer of other ...

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1. Jimmy Winkfield: The “Black Maestro” of the Racetrack

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pp. 7-20

In many respects, Jimmy Winkfield’s career as a jockey mirrored that of many other outstanding African American athletes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in that he was grudgingly acknowledged at home in the United States, while revered as a champion in Europe. He managed to enjoy a long racing career, first as a jockey then ...

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2. Marshall “Major” Taylor: The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World

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pp. 21-38

He is here in flesh and blood, and he must be dealt with as a human being, entitled to every human right.”1 The presence of black or “colored” athletes in every sport does not seem remarkable today. African Americans, West Indians, Ethiopians, Kenyans, Brazilians, Cubans, and Indians star in baseball, boxing, soccer, golf, tennis, and track and field. Ultra-traditional bastions of ...

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3. The Strange Career of William Henry Lewis

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pp. 39-58

Today, William Henry Lewis is most famous as the answer to trivia questions about numerous African American “firsts,” but in the early twentieth century he was one of the most well known and newsworthy blacks in the country. Lewis was a true Renaissance man who achieved remarkable success in each of his chosen avocations, and his career ...

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4. Jack Johnson and the Quest for Racial Respect

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pp. 59-74

The Progressive Era proved a misnomer for African Americans. Lynchings occurred on a regular basis. Jim Crow laws separated society and the United States Supreme Court affirmed racial segregation in the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896. Miscegenation laws prohibited interracial unions in many states. The Ku Klux Klan rose to power in the South, spread into ...

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II. Fashioning a World of Sport behind Segregated Walls and on the International Stage

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pp. 75-77

The lives of African Americans during the first half of the twentieth century were characterized by many changes and filled with both important successes and bitter disappointments. The northern migration of southern blacks, depression of the 1930s, world conflict, and a host of other societal factors would dramatically alter the economic position ...

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5. Ora Washington: The First Black Female Athletic Star

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pp. 78-92

On a now-forgotten day in the mid-1910s, a young African American woman stepped off a train car, and on to the bustling streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As Ora Washington gathered her belongings and set off to stay at an aunt’s home, she likely attracted little notice. The Great Migration was underway, and black southerners had become ...

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6. Satchel Paige’s Struggle for Selfhood in the Era of Jim Crow

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pp. 93-110

Leroy Paige would rise from the humblest beginnings imaginable to become one of the most famous and acclaimed athletes in the world, black or white, and he accomplished this feat in a period synonymous with Jim Crow, the color line, grandfather clauses, literacy tests, poll taxes, white citizens councils, nightriders, and lynchings. Baseball would ...

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7. Jesse Owens: Leading Man in Modern American Tales of Racial Progress and Limits

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pp. 111-132

Captured in motion by Leni Riefenstahl’s cameras at Berlin in 1936, Jesse Owens has ever after embodied the story of human speed.1 Owens also embodied other stories. His life served as an American epic about triumph over racism and poverty. He symbolized American hopes that the nation’s venerated ideals might be realized. His life was also told as a tragic tale of ...

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8. Joe Louis, Boxing, and American Culture

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pp. 133-146

Early in the professional prizefighting career of Joe Louis, former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson consistently dismissed the rising young star. Johnson picked Louis’s opponents to win throughout 1935–36. Papa Jack, as Johnson was called, assumed that former champs Primo Carnera and Max Baer would outfight the twenty-one-year-old. (Louis KOed ...

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9. Alice Coachman: Quiet Champion of the 1940s

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pp. 147-162

America revels in its sports lore. From the first in this to the most in that, from football to track and field, from the World Series to the Olympics— Americans have long loved to keep track of their sports stars. Names such as Jesse Owens, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Althea Gibson, Johnny Unitas, Wilt Chamberlin, Joe Louis, Arnold Palmer, Wilma Rudolph, ...

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10. Jackie Robinson: Racial Pioneer and Athlete Extraordinaire in an Era of Change

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pp. 163-180

Few athletes in the history of professional sports have made such a dramatic political, economic, and social impact as Brooklyn Dodgers hall of famer Jackie Robinson. Certainly no other athlete defined the era of the late 1940s and 1950s like Robinson, a period that gave us the early stages of expansion and the initial challenge to the reserve clause in ...

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III. The Fight for Civil Rights through Athletic Performance, Persuasion, and Protest

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pp. 181-186

The integration of American sport following Jackie Robinson’s entry into Major League baseball was a difficult and slow and uneven process. There were a number of sports that were especially resistant to integration and continue to be so to this very day. Tennis, swimming, golf, and other sports associated with private clubs and characterized by close ...

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11. “Jackie Robinson without the Charm”: The Challenges of Being Althea Gibson

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pp. 187-206

In her 1958 autobiography, international women’s tennis champion Althea Gibson recalled a telling incident from her childhood. A classmate known for being big and tough kept provoking her, pulling her hair, and ignoring requests to leave her alone. Finally Gibson had enough and said she would meet the girl outside after school. Word spread that ...

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12. Wilma Rudolph: The Making of an Olympic Icon

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pp. 207-222

Track athlete Wilma Rudolph is best remembered for her participation in the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, where she won three gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4 x 100-meter relay. Rudolph was one of the most-publicized stars of the Rome Games. Her celebrity at the games grew out of a number of factors, including her visibility as the ...

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13. Bill Russell: Pioneer and Champion of the Sixties

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pp. 223-240

As the twentieth century came to a close, sports television channels and publications compiled their lists of the century’s greatest athletes. Selecting athletes for their impact on both American sport and society, the sporting media at the millennium refocused our attention on some athletes whose days had passed but whose legacies were living on. ...

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14. Jim Brown: Superlative Athlete, Screen Star, Social Activist

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pp. 241-262

Athlete par excellence, football icon, movie star, social activist just begin to describe the broad and diverse characteristics that make up the complex personality of Jim Brown. As a football player, he had no equal; as an actor, he brought an African American action character to the movie screen; and as a champion of social justice, he reached deep into the ...

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15. Muhammad Ali: Flawed Rebel with a Cause

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pp. 263-278

There have been few athletes in the history of American amateur or professional sports that had either the fame or the cultural impact of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Certainly no other athlete so defined the era of the 1960s and 1970s, an era that gave us strikes and collective bargaining in major league baseball, saw blacks grow to dominate ...

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16. “The Quiet Militant”: Arthur Ashe and Black Athletic Activism

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pp. 279-296

Arthur Ashe, the first African American male to win the U.S. Open, the Wimbledon Open, the Australian Open, and the NCAA’s men’s tennis singles championship enjoyed an outstanding tennis career. Nonetheless, his three grand-slam tournament victories do not warrant Ashe being mentioned alongside the all-time tennis greats, including such players as Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, and Bill Tilden. Ashe was certainly not ...

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IV. Race, Sport, and Celebrity Culture

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pp. 297-299

Arthur Ashe and many of his contemporaries not only realized untold fame and a forum for speaking out on larger societal issues, but a degree of financial independence as well. They did not realize, however, the incredibly large amount of money and corporate sponsorship that have marked the careers of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Venus and ...

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17. Bound by Blackness or Above It? Michael Jordan and the Paradoxes of Post–Civil Rights American Race Relations

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pp. 300-324

If there is one thing the modern sports world does exceptionally well, it is produce cultural icons: individuals whose personalities and performances are larger-than-life and, as such, take on meaning and significance far beyond the bounds of their athletic excellence.1 And in the final decade of the twentieth century no sports star was more of an icon in the United ...

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18. “Race,” Family, and Nation: The Significance of Tiger Woods in American Culture

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pp. 325-352

In his brief lifetime of less than thirty years, Eldrick “Tiger” Woods has been called “the Greatest,” “the Chosen One,” “sport’s messiah,” and a “savior” for people of color. As a proud father, Earl Woods has extolled the attributes of his son. Speaking with hyperbolic gusto, Woods Sr. proclaimed that Tiger “has already transcended the game of golf. He is a ...

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19. “Ghetto Cinderellas”: Venus and Serena Williams and the Discourse of Racism

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pp. 353-372

Communication scholar James Andrews notes that “rhetoric grows out of events that a speaker wants us to see as important.” Further, “historical and political events and trends can force certain issues into our consciousness; the situation can make it imperative that we somehow come to grips with issues.”1 Chronicling the rise of African American tennis ...


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pp. 373-428


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pp. 429-438


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pp. 439-444


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pp. 445-459

E-ISBN-13: 9781610752954
E-ISBN-10: 1610752953
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557288769
Print-ISBN-10: 1557288763

Page Count: 472
Illustrations: 19 photographs
Publication Year: 2008