- Jackie & Campy: The Untold Story of Their Rocky Relationship and the Breaking of Baseball’s Color Line by William C. Kashatus
William Kashatus has written a thoroughly engrossing, albeit slightly flawed, account regarding the relationship between Brooklyn Dodgers legends Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella. He examines the relationship between the two men within the broader context of the modern Civil Rights Movement and the dialectic that defined their competing approaches to integrating the game. A central theme that permeates the work was that the antagonistic relationship between Robinson and Campanella was the inability to understand and respect the approach of the other toward civil rights, although both men shared the same goal. Kashatus was quick to point out, however, that his book was not an indepth history of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s. It was also not a comprehensive biography of either Robinson or Campanella. Rather, Jackie & Campy endeavors to provide a corrective of each man’s complex relationship among themselves and its impact on baseball’s integration process.
To conceptualize the dialectic between the two ballplayers, Kashatus uses the differing ideologies commonly attributed to W.E B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington to define the post-World II African-American experience. Campanella embodied the Washingtonian ideal that progress could only be achieved by winning the support from the “better sort” (p. 5) of whites by working hard, living frugal and moral lives, and developing and supporting black enterprises. It was a practical ideal given the realities of race relations in the early twentieth century. Robinson, on the other hand, exemplified the DuBoisian notion of manhood, intelligence, and developing and maintaining a cultural worldview. Like DuBois who developed the Niagara Movement to combat racial discrimination, Robinson aimed to end discrimination in Organized Baseball.
Kashatus’ attempt to contextualize the experiences of Robinson and Campanella within the differing philosophies of DuBois and Washington was commendable in theory. Unfortunately it is also the book’s weakness. Characterizing Robinson as a civil rights leader during his playing days was somewhat problematic. The Civil Rights Movement does not define the overall African-American experience in the late 1940s and 1950s. Kashatus falls into the same trap that neglects to investigate the link between the African-American sport experience and the broader forces that have defined the overall African-American experience—most notably Black Nationalism.
Since the 1850s, a significant portion of African Americans tended to support the ideas of Black Nationalism—the rejection of integration, the development of black socioeconomic communities, and an affinity to fight against white racism. Marcus Garvey was only one of a great tradition of black leaders who expressed nationalistic tendencies that won the support of thousands and, in some instances, millions with the emergence of the Nation of Islam after World War II black nationalist sentiments escalated within the black rural South and urban North. Malcolm X did not emerge within a vacuum, nor did the [End Page 132] plethora of boxers and basketball players who converted to Islam in the 1960s and 1970s.
Ideologically, Black Nationalism has fallen into two camps—pluralism and nationalism. Pluralists view society as a combination of various ethnic and interest groups, competing with one another for goods and services. Also referred to as economic Black Nationalism, pluralists favor competition as long as equal opportunities, privileges, and respect are accorded to all groups. An amiable co-existence of diverse groups would, unlike integration, allow each subculture to remain relatively intact. Granted access to power and a continual strengthening and renewing through their cultural roots, the groups would form a multi-cultural society in which each component supported and enhanced all others.
Nationalism, on the other hand, rejected the integrationist ideal in a somewhat more precipitous manner. To black nationalists, white power, as noticeable in the workings of U.S. and institutional life, has been and continues to be a major obstacle to black Americans attainment to the good life. To change and eventually dissolve...