- The Negro in Sport ed. by Edwin Bancroft Henderson, Daryl Michael Scott
A year after fighting George Foreman in Zaire, Muhammad Ali recalled his experience in Africa. Ali spoke of seeing blacks in all aspects of the society—from the country’s president to airplane pilots to taxi drivers—something he did not experience in America. Seeing Africans fulfilling roles that were restricted for blacks in the United States provided Ali with role models that changed his perspective of Africa and himself. Thirty-six years earlier, The Negro in Sport recorded achievements of black athletes. Bringing that history into one publication demonstrated the successes of the individuals who would be role models for others and who represented social progress in the eyes of the author.
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) first published the work of Edwin Bancroft Henderson in 1939. Ten years later, a second edition increased from 371 pages to 507 and included revised and updated chapters, an appendix, [End Page 124] and two new chapters. This third edition is a reprinting of the second edition and includes a new introduction by Al-Tony Gilmore. While the content listing includes the prefaces to the first and second edition, they are not included in the text. This omission takes away from understanding the text as a historical document. In his preface, editor Daryl Michael Scott states that the third edition is a second-generation reprint and the images were reproductions without the original plates or photographs. Scott said he hoped that future technology would allow for a better edition. While not a distraction, a better edition would be welcome.
While a history of African Americans in sports, this text also brings to the fore the role of the ASALH and its founder, Carter Woodson, in recording the history of African Americans. In addition to founding the Journal of Negro History (now the Journal of African America History), the Negro History Bulletin (now the Black History Bulletin), and starting Negro History Week (now Black History Month), Woodson supported the recording of black achievement by publishing works such as The Negro in Sport. A Harvard-educated physical trainer and educator, Edwin Bancroft Henderson wrote about the importance of sports and connected sports to the struggle for racial equality and self-dignity (xxiv–xxv).
With nineteen chapters and a lengthy appendix, The Negro in Sport seems at first to be an encyclopedia. Beginning with a brief mention of athletics in ancient times, the narrative quickly moves to sport in the United States after the Civil War. Henderson presents each sport in a new chapter including professional, collegiate, interscholastic, and recreational. Covering boxing, sprinters, track and field, football, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, among others, Henderson includes a wide range of sports. Having no chapter on the Olympic Games seems odd, but Henderson may have addressed this in one of the two prefaces not included in this edition. Some of the names and achievements of the individuals are familiar to a twenty-first-century audience, but most are not.
Rather than being a list of accomplishments, Henderson includes a description of the origins of each sport, which provides the reader with an understanding of sport history. In addition, Henderson provides some social context of their struggle for equality. For example, the section “Racial Intolerance on the Gridiron” discusses the benching of players of color in games against schools that supported segregation. Henderson notes that, with increasing numbers of black players and the more tolerant views of educators and coaches, eventually segregation would end (121).
While women are included in the chapter “Pioneers in Tennis” and “In Various Sports,” most women are included in the chapter “Negro Girls in Sport.” In the chapter introduction, Henderson distinguishes between girls and women, but then uses the terms interchangeably when describing athletes who are adult women. Henderson uses the term girls rather than women or female in the chapter title. The new introduction does not provide any discussion about women and...