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Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseballby Chris Lamb
Synopses & Reviews
In the spring of 1946, following the defeat of Hitlerand#8217;s Germany, America found itself still struggling with the subtler but no less insidious tyrannies of racism and segregation at home. In the midst of it all, Jackie Robinson, a full year away from breaking major league baseballand#8217;s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, was undergoing a harrowing dress rehearsal for integrationand#8212;his first spring training as a minor league prospect with the Montreal Royals, Brooklynand#8217;s AAA team. In Blackout, Chris Lamb tells what happened during these six weeks in segregated Floridaand#8212;six weeks that would become a critical juncture for the national pastime and for an American society on the threshold of a civil rights revolution.
Blackout chronicles Robinsonand#8217;s tremendous ordeal during that crucial spring trainingand#8212;how he struggled on the field and off. The restaurants and hotels that welcomed his white teammates were closed to him, and in one city after another he was prohibited from taking the field. Steeping his story in its complex cultural context, Lamb describes Robinsonand#8217;s determination and anxiety, the reaction of the black and white communities to his appearance, and the unique and influential role of the pressand#8212;mainstream reporting, the alternative black weeklies, and the Communist Daily Workerand#8212;in the integration of baseball. Told here in detail for the first time, this story brilliantly encapsulates the larger history of a man, a sport, and a nation on the verge of great and enduring change.
In the first half of the twentieth century, Jack Trice, Ozzie Simmons, and Johnny Bright played college football for three Iowa institutions: Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and Drake University, respectively. At a time when the overwhelming majority of their opponents and teammates were white, the three men, all African American, sustained serious injuries on the gridiron, either because of their talents, their race, or, most likely, because of an ugly combination of the two. Moments of Impact tells their stories and examines how the local communities of which they were once a part have forgotten and remembered those assaults over time. Of particular interest are the ways those memories have manifested in a number of commemorations, including a stadium name, a trophy, and the dedication of a football field.
Jaime Schultz focuses on the historical and racial circumstances of the careers of Trice, Simmons, and Bright as well as the processes and politics of cultural memory. Schultz develops the concept of andldquo;racialized memoryandrdquo;andmdash;a communal form of remembering imbued with racial significanceandmdash;to suggest that the racial politics of contemporary America have engendered a need to redress historical wrongs, congratulate Americans on the ostensible racial progress they have made, and divert attention from the unrelenting persistence of structural and ideological racism.
The story of Jackie Robinson valiantly breaking baseballand#8217;s color barrier in 1947 is one that most Americans know. But less recognized is the fact that some seventy years earlier, following the Civil War, baseball was tenuously biracial and had the potential for a truly open game. How, then, did the game become so firmly segregated that it required a trailblazer like Robinson? The answer, Ryan A. Swanson suggests, has everything to do with the politics of and#8220;reconciliationand#8221; and a wish to avoid the issues of race that an integrated game necessarily raised.
The history of baseball during Reconstruction, asand#160;Swansonand#160;tells it, is a story of lost opportunities. Thomas Fitzgerald and Octavius Catto (a Philadelphia baseball tandem), for example, were poised to emerge as pioneers of integration in the 1860s. Instead, the desire to create a and#8220;national gameand#8221;and#8212;professional and appealing to white Northerners and Southerners alikeand#8212;trumped any movement toward civil rights. Focusing on Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Richmondand#8212;three cities with large African American populations and thriving baseball clubsand#8212;Swanson uncovers the origins of baseballand#8217;s segregation and the mechanics of its implementation. An important piece of sports history, his work also offers a better understanding of Reconstruction, race, and segregation in America.and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
About the Author
Chris Lamb, a professor of journalism at the Indiana University School of Journalism, Indianapolis, is the author of Blackout: The Story of Jackie Robinsons First Spring Training, available in a Bison Books edition.
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