- Separate Games: African American Sport behind the Walls of Segregation ed. by David K. Wiggins and Ryan A. Swanson
The extensive editing (and writing) career of David K. Wiggins over the past two decades has done much to provide a fitting stage for the historical endeavors of African American athletes, with resulting impressive collections. This new offering, Separate Games: African [End Page 142] American Sport behind the Walls of Segregation is a fitting addition to his (and Swanson's) body of work. The key variation in this endeavor, particularly compared to Out of the Shadows (2006), is that the twelve essays presented focus not necessarily on individual athletic accomplishment (although there is extensive summary included), but rather on how teams, events, and organizations spotlighted the abilities of African Americans to commence and sustain (against seemingly impossible odds on many occasions) race-based entities over substantial number of decades. As Wiggins notes, the goal is to present how these clubs, happenings, and associations (and their related events) served as "examples of black enterprise … [which] played a crucial role in the African American quest for equal rights and racial uplift" (xv). In this objective, the editors and contributors succeed admirably.
The work is divided into three sections, highlighting individual teams, happenings, and, finally, specific organizations. Each of the segments contains four articles, plus an insightful introduction by Wiggins. The team section is evenly divided into articles on men's and women's sides and focus on baseball, basketball, and track. The most noteworthy contributions here are by J. Thomas Jable and Carroll Van West, which bring to light the influence of the Philadelphia Tribune Newsgirls (and their legendary player, Ora Mae Washington) and the Tennessee State Tigerbelles. Both squads shattered important barriers such as playing against white teams and representing their nation on the international stage.
The events segment sheds light on the National Interscholastic Basketball Tournament (NIBT), the Turkey Day Classic in Alabama (football), the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes (auto racing), and the East West Classic (baseball). Of particular significance here is the work on the NIBT by Robert Pruter and the Sweepstakes by Todd Gould. The NIBT piece details bureaucratic efforts to bring a semblance of organizational efficiency and regulation to the games of African American high schools. Given the circumstances of segregation, this was truly a herculean endeavor, but one that eventually helped bring about one of the most significant events for amateur African American athletes. In the years after Brown v. Topeka, the NIBT began to decline, but not before many white coaches from northern and midwestern institutions began to attend and take notice of the substantial talent on display. Gould's essay is significant because it presents how the Colored Speedway Association was born, commenced operation, and sustained itself through the years of economic toil to open the door to African American "speed kings" in the very heart of Indiana and elsewhere.
The organization portion of the work details the rise of the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association (an African American NCAA), the American Tennis Association, United Golfers Association, and the National Negro Bowling Association (NNBA). Again, all of the essays present extensive discussions about how the groups formed, struggled, and bore much fruit. Of special interest to this reviewer was the examination of the development of African Americans in the sport of golf by Raymond Schmidt (given recent works focused on Texas dealing with desegregation of public courses in Beaumont) and the rise and history of the NNBA in the "democratic," everyman/woman sport of bowling.
There are a couple of minor quibbles, however. In the chapter on the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the authors (Wiggins and Chris Elzey) note a controversy involving Lincoln University head basketball coach Manny Rivero. While the article is not focused on this particular individual, it should have been noted that Rivero, who made his career at this historically black institution in Pennsylvania, was actually a native of Cuba. [End Page 143] This would...