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  • Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game by John Coy
  • Elizabeth Bush
Coy, John Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game; illus. by Randy DuBurke. Carolrhoda, 2015 34p
Library ed. ISBN 978-1-4677-2604-7 $17.99
Ad 6-9 yrs

In North Carolina, 1944, Jim Crow laws against “race mixing” meant that no playoff system existed to determine, definitively, whether the black powerhouse team of [End Page 189] North Carolina College for Negroes could best the nationally acclaimed basketball players from Duke. A clandestine match-up, now dubbed “The Secret Game,” would answer the immediate question but would also become anti-segregation legend. Coy adheres closely to Scott Ellsworth’s description of the game, recounted in his 1996 New York Times article, which Coy cites in a selected bibliography. Audiences watch the Duke players hustle across town in the early hours of a Sunday morning and sneak into the NCC gym, with its doors promptly locked. The nervous players stumble through the opening plays, and then hit their stride and have such a good time (88 to 44, NCC) that they stick around for a second game: shirts and skins, with the two teams mixed. It’s a great story, as far as it goes, but Coy’s omission of background leaves readers wondering just how this game was ever organized, and why it was Duke’s medical school students rather than the Blue Devils who took on NCC. DeBurke’s mixed-media illustrations, with their muted colors and grainy photorealism, are a fine complement to the text, and the manual typewriter–styled font cleverly underscores this “report” from the past. Pair this with Raven’s Let Them Play (BCCB 2/06) for a readaloud on teams who challenged segregation.



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pp. 189-190
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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