During the 1970s, Reggie Jackson, arguably the most polarizing black baseball player of his time, became an emblem of the decade. A five-time World Series champion with the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees, he publicly challenged white owners, managers, teammates, and reporters. For Jackson, challenging white authority meant reclaiming his manhood. While white critics claimed that he was too flamboyant and too outspoken, black fans and writers complained that he was self-absorbed, unwilling to speak out for any cause other than his own. Embracing the politics of self, Jackson emerged as a symbol of excessive individualism during a growing cultural shift toward personal fulfillment. Although Jackson was one of the most prominent athletes of the seventies, historians have neglected to explain his larger cultural significance. His story, however, not only reveals how black athletes shaped the idea of the "Me Decade" but also how they transformed American sports through participation, protest, and personalized performance. Jackson was at the forefront of a new generation of black athletes: the first class of baseball's free agents, players who were wealthier, more mobile, and more independent. Among the first black athletes who crossed over as mainstream corporate spokesmen, he became baseball's greatest media star, recognized as much for his personality as for his athletic accomplishments. The age of Jackson marked a turning point in American sports history, one where black athletes embraced new freedoms, defied authority, and expressed their own individual style.


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pp. 145-164
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