Exciting Developments With NCAS

This week, I have been able to move forward with a new aspect of my project: Ashley Hall’s membership in the National Consortium for Academics and Sports. The NCAS was established by Richard Lapchick, the same man who founded Sport in Society, as a national consortium of colleges, universities, and other affiliate members who’s goal is to raise awareness of racism in sport and promote leadership and community involvement in student-athletes. Its vision is to promote social justice in sports and use athletics as a way to advocate social change, and it seeks to accomplish this by instilling athletes with value based thinking and leadership skills to advocate social responsibility.

I recently spoke with Dr. Nancy Kaplan, the Consulting Director of Membership at the NCAS, about the possibility of Ashley Hall becoming a member and what that membership would entail. She was incredibly enthusiastic about Ashley Hall’s involvement and told me that should we choose to join, Ashley Hall would enter as an affiliate member, which is essentially an organization or school that is not a university, but that still seeks to become involved with the NCAS. She also emailed me a packet detailing membership in the NCAS and the various programs that are a part of that. Two notable ones include Branded a Leader, a program that fosters leadership and responsibility in student athletes, and National Student Athlete Day, which occurs on April 6th and is a day in which student athletes are honored for their achievements in the classroom, on the field, and in the community.

Another important aspect of the NCAS is its focus on community outreach and involvement. As I move forward into the second semester and begin to focus on the community component of my project, this will be very beneficial and will help me as I begin to plan and organize my outreach. Additionally, through this I will be able to get our student athletes more involved in service and social change, the same components that my project encompasses. I also think it is important for Ashley Hall, as an all girls’ school, to advocate ideas of leadership, responsibility, and diversity and gender awareness in sports because they are all values that affect girls, especially those in high school.

I spoke with Mrs. Slay, the head of the athletic department, about our membership, and she agreed that this would be a wonderful opportunity to give our sports program a new meaning. Overall, I believe that a membership in the NCAS will be extremely beneficial to our school and will only serve to broaden the influence of our athletic program. I am currently working on the membership application, and we should become members of this fabulous organization soon!

Meet… Fritz Pollard

“You had to be tough as nails to play in that league. And that went double if you were black, because they really came after us.”

In 1919, when Fritz Pollard first began playing football in the NFL, sports was one of only a few opportunities for African Americans to advance their social and economic status. He may not have been the first black man to play professional football, but he certainly was one of the most influential of his time, emerging as a dominant force in the quest to keep the NFL integrated. Throughout his career, he continued to struggle to allow African Americans to retain their rights to play the game of football at the highest possible level. His pioneering efforts had a lasting impact that helped delay the eventual segregation of the NFL, and through Fritz Pollard’s unparalleled dedication and love of football, African Americans were able to define their place in the sport before they were ultimately forced out.

Pollard was born in 1894 into a middle class family outside Chicago. Like his three older brothers, Fritz emerged as a football star once he reached high school. It was as a student and athlete of his predominately white school that Pollard first learned how to deal with the discrimination and racial prejudice he received from his fellow students and athletic opponents. Although he excelled in baseball and track as well, he decided to focus on football in college, presuming that he would have more opportunities in the sport as an African American. After bouncing around from several colleges, he eventually ended up at Brown University where he joined the football team. At first, things weren’t easy. Pollard was ostracized by his white teammates and targeted on the practice field. However, he endured this blatant racism and ultimately emerged as the star of the Brown football squad.

After proving himself to be one of the most talented halfbacks in the country, Pollard went on to become the first African American to play in the prestigious Rose Bowl on January 1st, 1916. The following year, he elevated the Brown team even more, leading them to consecutive victories over heavily favored Harvard and Yale. His performances this year were so great, in fact, that he was named as a first team All-American, the second black player ever to receive this honor and the first to do so as a member of the back field. Due to these accomplishments, Pollard began to receive recognition from various civil rights groups and black organizations, traveling from city to city along the East Coast to accept awards and accolades. Unfortunately, he also began to neglect his studies, and the following season he was ruled academically ineligible to compete on the Brown football team.

Because of his ineligibility, Pollard entered military service for a few years before returning to football. When he did return, however, it was as a member of the Akron Pros professional football team in 1919. The next year the Pros joined the American Professional Football Association (APFA), later the National Football League. That year, Pollard assumed some of the coaching duties, and behind his powerful backfield play and the eastern formations he had brought from college, the Pros went on to win the APFA championship. Despite this success, Pollard still suffered as an African American in an all-white league. Indeed, when he first began playing, he was one of only two black players in professional football, and life was certainly not easy because of it. On the road, he was not allowed to eat at the same restaurants or stay in the same hotels as his teammates. He sustained verbal and physical abuse from Akron’s fans, who he claimed were just as prejudiced as anyone from the South. He even had to dress for home games at a local cigar store and arrive at the stadium just before game time in order to protect his safety.

In 1921, Pollard was named co-coach of the Akron Pros, making him the first African American coach in NFL history. During this time, he emerged as one of the best players in professional football alongside Jim Thorpe, a football legend. He went on to play for several other teams in the league, often acting as both a coach and player while remaining one of the most dominant men on the field. During this time, more African Americans began to enter the league, many of whom were recruited by Pollard himself. Because of his efforts to help more blacks play professional football, Fritz was also able to organize an interracial all-star game in Chicago that showcased a team made up of the finest African American players in the league against an all white squad. His purpose was clear: to showcase the talent of black athletes and promote integrated competition in sports.

Later, as the head coach of the Hammond Pros in 1925, Pollard brought in three black players who, alongside his own play, made Hammond the most integrated team in the NFL. This year would mark the height of African American participation in the NFL before growing discrimination would cause the number of black football players to begin to fall, until there was only one African American player in 1927. Dismayed by these numbers, Pollard went on to found an all-star black professional team in 1928 called the Chicago Black Hawks. This team played games against all-white professional teams before folding due to Depression. They were able to prove that interracial play was possible without the ugly incidents that had marred NFL competition between whites and blacks.

Eventually, a ban on African American participation in the NFL was passed in 1934, and so in response Pollard formed and coached an all-black professional Harlem football team, the Brown Bombers. Like the Black Hawks, the Bombers played against all-white professional teams, usually dominating behind the strength of their all-star African American talent. With his team soundly defeating NFL team after NFL team, Pollard was able to prove that blacks were talented enough to play in professional leagues, thus challenging the NFL’s race ban and bringing the issue of segregation to the forefront of professional football. After resigning as head coach of the Bombers, Pollard continued to oppose the NFL ban and remain a prominent advocate for integration in football.

Sadly, the immense contributions of Fritz Pollard are often regarded as merely a footnote in the history of the NFL, but in reality they were so much more. As a player, he helped pave the way for his fellow African Americans to enter the sport, and as a coach he maintained integration by recruiting other black players to join his teams. Once he left the NFL, he continued his advocacy by organizing first the Chicago Black Hawks and then the Brown Bombers, two teams that proved African Americans had just as much a place in professional football as anyone else. Indeed, the Bombers enabled blacks to continue to play against professional teams after they had been excluded from the NFL due to the league’s race ban. Ultimately, Fritz Pollard was a man whose extensive contributions to the game of football helped promote integration and establish a place for African Americans to participate at the professional level.

 

Works Cited:

Brooks, Scott, and Charles Kenyatta Ross. Race and Sport: The Struggle for Equality on and off the Field. Jackson: University of Mississippi, 2004. Print.

Muhammad Ali’s Protest of the Draft, Vietnam, and the Role of the Black Athlete

Outspoken, arrogant, fearless. Muhammad Ali was all of these and more, bursting into the boxing ring with power, grace, and recklessness. He was both loved and hated, revered and despised. Gone were the days of Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson simply bearing the brunt of discrimination and prejudice as they bridged the gap toward equality; instead, Ali chose to glorify his blackness, to revel in the darkness of his skin and accentuate the difference it caused. He was proud, perhaps too much so, and when he swaggered into the ring to fight or onto a podium to speak, there was no doubt that he believed he was the best. He embraced his race, wore it proudly in the face of his white critics, and in doing so made it a factor in nearly everything he did for the duration of his career. Ultimately, Muhammad Ali revolutionized the role of the black athlete, twisting it in ways that were neither good nor bad, but that were certainly different.

When Ali chose to convert to Islam, and thus change is name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad, he began the separatist stance that would mark the rest of his career. This rejection of America’s prominent religion was simultaneously a rejection of authority, of the God most Americans viewed as the highest possible power. It was as if he had said that no one, not even God and certainly not a white man, could control him or tell him what to do. For many whites, this was a worrisome approach that ultimately angered them, as they had just become used to the idea of African Americans as silent and peaceful athletes when this outspoken and brash young man decided to deviate from the status quo.

Perhaps the most important factor in Ali’s conversion to Islam, however, was the power it gave him in his later protest of the military draft. Indeed, in early 1966, amidst political and social chaos and a raging war that was taking young lives by the thousands, Muhammad Ali claimed exemption from the draft on religious grounds of conscientious objection due to his Islamic faith. Unsurprisingly, this move shocked the country. Some praised him for his moral conviction and willingness to take a stand for peace and justice. Others called him a coward, angered at his refusal to serve his country as so many other men had done. Confused as to the true reason for his exemption, many believed it to be a public stand for his race, a continuation of his rejection of authority that said no black man could be made to fight for a country that wouldn’t even treat him equally.

If it was indeed a fight for the cause of his black brethren, Ali’s protest may have actually backfired. Although some notable black athletes, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell, supported his decision, others, most notably Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis, did not. “He’s hurting, I think, the morale of a lot of young Negro soldiers in Vietnam,” Robinson later said. Ultimately this was true, as many African American soldiers fighting in Vietnam became outraged and frustrated by Ali’s exemption. In fact, many of them hated him for it. In the end, this attempt to take a stand for his fellow African Americans only served to alienate him from those that were fighting in the war, damaging his solidarity with them and his stance of racial pride.

Eventually Ali’s boxing license and heavyweight title were stripped due to his refusal to partake in the draft. Yet despite this, he remained steadfast in his commitment not to fight in the war, even saying to a pack of reporters questioning him on Vietnam, “Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong”. This blatantly political and controversial position may have been viewed as either heroic or cowardly, but it undeniably changed the image of the black athlete. Before, African Americans had endured so much hardship to even make it onto the field that once they were there, they simply remained quiet and strove to represent their race in the best way possible. Muhammad Ali, on the other hand, used his prominent athletic position to not only represent his race, but to advocate it as well, embracing his blackness in a way no other athlete had before. He was not simply a boxer, he was a man, one with a character that was proud and brash and ferocious, but that was also unafraid to take a stand for a cause he believed in. So despite one’s feelings on his positions and comments, it can not be denied that through his protests, Muhammad Ali gave black athletes a vocal power that they had never before experienced.

 

Works Cited:

Miller, Patrick B., and David Kenneth Wiggins. Sport and the Color Line: Black Athletes and Race Relations in Twentieth-century America. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Sports and the Racial Divide: African American and Latino Experience in an Era of Change

Sports and the Racial Divide is a compilation of essays detailing and analyzing the relationship between ethnicity, race, and sports. These essays reflect upon the use of sports as a way of both fighting racial supremacy and protesting ethnic and racial injustices in society. This book covers racial issues from many different American sports, including basketball, football, baseball, boxing, and track and field. It is focused primarily on the role of the black athlete following World War II and examines the black power movement through professional athletics.

It also includes several essays discussing the civil rights protests made at the 1968 Olympic games, a key point that I have studied during my project, as well as the public’s perception of Muhammad Ali and his controversial stances on race matters. Another aspect of this book that makes it unique is the analysis of the Latino experience in sports and the treatment of Hispanic players in professional sports. It was very interesting to read about the same discrimination and oppression they faced for their own ethnicity. Because of the many varying topics presented and the different angles in which the essay authors approach this subject, Sports and the Racial Divide has served as an excellent resource in my project.

A Racial Aberration: Are The Timberwolves Too White?

I recently came across an article in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated that proved very thought provoking. Entitled “Too White, Or All Right?”, this article discussed the recent comments by Tyrone Terrell, the chairman of the African American Leadership Council, who suggested that the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA team organized their off-season roster on the basis of not just talent, but race as well, signing non-African American players in order to appeal to a fan base that is predominantly white. Indeed, in a league in which 80% of players are African American, the Timberwolves are a team with only 5 black players out of a total of 15 roster spots.

Understandably, Terrell’s comments have been extremely controversial, and they have been met with both praise and criticism. Some have called him a racist and asked for his resignation, while others commend him for speaking out on a topic few dare to discuss. Although his accusations of racism by the Timberwolves’ managers may seem accurate at first glance, a closer examination of the situation provides evidence that significantly weakens this argument. After all, if the Timberwolves wanted a primarily Caucasian team, why would they make lucrative offers to two black players this past off-season? Furthermore, some of the most successful and popular players in Minnesota’s history were African American, including Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell, and Tony Campbell. Still, the fact remains that the Timberwolves are a racial anomaly in the NBA, and this issue has prompted others, such as Ron Edwards, the former head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, to express concern as well.

Ultimately, this incident is so intriguing because the roles are reversed; this time, whites are considered a minority in a league dominated by African Americans. Indeed, if this is the case, should the Timberwolves be praised because they are technically diversifying their team in respect to the NBA? Or will history forever render the relationship between whites and blacks as the oppressors and the oppressed, respectively? Is there really even a race issue here to begin with, or is it merely society’s natural reaction to seeing a team that looks different than everyone else? These are the key questions surrounding this situation that make it an intriguing example of the racial stigmas that still exist in today’s society.

It must be noted that many of the Timberwolves non-black players are not “white”, technically, but are actually international players from foreign countries. This only further contradicts Terrell’s claim that the team’s roster was put together with a certain appearance in mind. When examining this and other factors, one is able to draw one’s own conclusions as to whether race played a factor in the assemblage of the Timberwolves’ players. Personally, I believe that these selections were made based on talent and availability, not race. However, it remains incredibly interesting to examine the reactions on behalf of others regarding this anomaly of the NBA, and the approach to race relations that exists in today’s society.

Meet… Jesse Owens

“Although I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President either.”

The Berlin Olympics of 1936 were Adolf Hitler’s show. At least, they were supposed to be, until a 22 year old African American sprinter named Jesse Owens decided to show up and become the first Olympian ever to win four gold medals. You see, Hitler had been using the international spotlight of Germany’s Olympics to proclaim his ideals of Aryan supremacy to the world. His abundant propaganda was challenged, however, when Jesse Owens established himself as the dominant athlete of the Games and proved that the white race was in no way superior.

The grandson of slaves and the son of share croppers, Jesse Owens was raised in a family in which he was expected to pick 100 pounds of cotton a day by the age of seven. As he grew older and began to attend high school, he soon emerged as a dominant and extremely gifted track athlete. Due to such athletic prowess, he went on to attend Ohio State and set four world records as a track star there. Indeed, during his junior year he entered 42 track and field events and won every single one of them. It was only a matter of time before he arrived in Berlin to compete on the world’s stage as an Olympian.

Unsurprisingly, the German attitude towards Owens and his fellow African American teammates was extremely negative. In fact, one German official went so far as to claim that America was allowing “non-humans, like Owens and other Negro athletes” to compete in the Games. This did nothing to deter Owens in his pursuit of victory, however, and he went on to win his first gold medal in the 100 meter dash against his fellow African American, Ralph Metcalfe. The next day, he went on to compete in the long jump, capturing the gold in that event as well.

Perhaps most remarkable about this event is the man who won the silver medal behind Owens, a German named Luz Long.During the competition, he gave Owens advice on his jumps, helping him qualify for the final after a rough start for the American. Then, when Owens bested him to win the event, Long was the first to congratulate him, proving that not all Germans shared Hitler’s racist beliefs. Indeed, Owens himself was not ignorant to the significance of Long’s kindness.”It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler,” Owens said. “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace.”

Owens would go on to win two more gold medals in the 200 meter dash and the 4×100 meter relay. Rumor has it that Hitler was so incensed by this triumph that he stormed out of the Olympic stadium, and that he later snubbed Owens by refusing to congratulate him or shake his hand. Ultimately, he was angered by Owens’ success and the fact that a black man had been able to upend his prominent philosophies. But, in the end, this is to be expected. After all, Jesse Owens was a black man from America who had defeated Hitler’s fellow Germans on their own soil. What is most intriguing, however, is the way Owens was treated upon his return home to America as a four time Olympic champion.

Following his emergence as an American Olympic hero, Jesse Owens returned home to much fan fare and celebration. At least, it appeared that way initially. He may have been an American hero, but in the eyes of those around him he was still a black man and thus inferior. This attitude is perhaps best characterized by Owens’ experience at a dinner that was being held in his honor. He was allowed to stand before the crowd present and accept the applause on his behalf, yet when it came time for the meal to be served, he was asked to leave because it was not considered socially acceptable for a black man to eat alongside whites. Additionally, despite the fact that nearly everyone in the country knew his name and face, no endorsements came his way following the Olympics. With no other source of income, the greatest Olympian of the time was forced to participate in races against horses and dogs in order to make money.”People said it was degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse, but what was I supposed to do?” Owens said. “I had four gold medals, but you can’t eat four gold medals.”

Looking back, it is amazing to think of our country’s social attitude at this time, and it makes one wonder if we were any better than the Nazis. An African American was able to become the greatest athlete in the world and represent his country on the international stage, and yet he was still treated as an outcast due to the color of his skin. Indeed, when he was winning he was an American to his fellow countrymen, yet when he returned home he was viewed first and foremost as a black man. Owens recognized this, and in later years he publicized his discrimination not by the Germans at the Olympics, but at home by other Americans.

Thankfully, Jesse Owens is remembered today as one of the greatest Olympians of all time, a man who shattered racial barriers and proved to Hitler and other Americans that racial supremacy is nonexistent, and that anyone can become champion with hard work and perseverance, regardless of the color of their skin.

 

Works Cited:

Schaap, Jeremy. Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Print.

Schwartz, Larry. “Owens Pierced a Myth.” ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Sports. ESPN, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.

Hodges, Dan. “Jesse Owens: The Olympic Superstar That Keeps Soaring.” The Telegraph. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.

A Good Man Lost: The On-field Death of Jack Trice

On October 8th, 1923, Iowa State’s first African American football player Jack Trice was killed after being trampled during a game against The University of Minnesota two days before. It is a tragedy that has been examined again and again by historians throughout the past century, with one question repeatedly occurring: Was race a factor? There is evidence indicating that it did indeed lead to the fatal on-field abuse Trice suffered, and there is evidence indicating it did not. In the end, we may never know the answer to this question, but the facts remain the same: Jack Trice was the first black athlete to play both at Iowa State and the Missouri Valley Conference; he suffered discrimination and abuse from the community and other schools as a result of his race; and ultimately, he was killed following an ugly play against a team that had never before encountered integration.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of this event can be found in the letter Trice wrote on the eve of the Minnesota game, his first as a member of the varsity football team. It read:

“To whom it may concern:

My thoughts just before the first real college game of my life. The honor of my race, family, and self is at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will! My whole body and soul are to be thrown recklessly about on the field tomorrow. Every time the ball is snapped I will be trying to do more than my part. On all defensive plays I must break through the opponent’s line and stop the play in their territory.
Beware of massive interference, fight low with your eyes open and toward the play. Roll block the interference. Watch out for crossbucks and reverse
end runs. Be on your toes every minute if you expect to make good.”

This letter, as well as accounts from Trice’s contemporaries, depict a determined and courageous young man unwillingly to let his race or society’s views dictate his life. When he arrived at Iowa State, he encountered a white community in which Klan activity and discriminatory practices were prevalent. Yet none of this deterred him, and he continued to devote himself to his team and his academic studies. That is why it is so upsetting that the life of this bright young man was cut short in an event that carries possible racial undertones.

So did race play a role in this incident? Later interviews with several of Trice’s teammates indicate that they believe the play was not intentional, and that Trice had been trampled by accident by the opposing Minnesota players. However, Merl Ross, Trice’s employer, told the Des Moines Tribute following Trice’s death that he believed that the Minnesota players wanted to knock Trice out of the game because he was black, and that’s what they had done. Indeed, just after Trice had been taken off the field following his injury, the Minnesota fans began cheering “We’re sorry, Ames, we’re sorry” (Ames is the city in which Iowa State is located). Whether or not this remorse stemmed from a possible racial standpoint, we may never know.

In the end, Jack Trice made history by integrating the Missouri Valley Conference and the Iowa State athletic program. He was a young man who understood the duty he bore for his race and who was determined to make his family and his fellow African Americans proud through his accomplishments. It is a shame that he was killed so young, and I would like to believe that his injuries were the result of an accident, a standard football play gone wrong. However, the possibility of racial undertones casts a menacing shadow over the incident, and the fact that it is even possible that there were sinister motives behind this incident proves just how poor race relations were at this time period. Iowa State has since named its football stadium “Jack Trice Stadium” (the only current Division 1-A School to have an athletic stadium named after an African American), proving just how enduring a legend this remarkable man has become, even at the cost of his life.

 

Works Cited:

Sullivan, Steve. “VISIONS Winter 2010 | Cover Story.” VISIONS Winter 2010 | Cover Story. Iowa State University, Winter 2010. Web. 14 Sept. 2012. <http://visions.isualum.org/winter10/coverstory.asp>.

A Question of Racial Supremacy: Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries, 1910

Jack Johnson is perhaps the most enigmatic and controversial sports figure of the past century. A black boxer in the early 1900’s, he drank, smoked, cursed, and slept with countless women- most of them white. In fact, at one point in his career he travelled across the country with his wife, his mistress, and a prostitute he had recently been seeing. Such extravagant and out of control living caused the public to view him as a hoodlum, especially due to his race.

Indeed, white fans deemed him a brute and felt that he represented all that was wrong with the black race. So when Johnson defeated Canadian Tommy Burns in 1908 to become the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world, fans of the sport were less than pleased. Almost immediately after Johnson became champion, public pressure began to mount in persuading the retired previous champion, Jim Jeffries, to make a comeback and restore the racial order in boxing. And thus began the lead up to what would later be deemed “The Fight of the Century”.

Eventually, Jim Jeffries gave in to the public and announced his comeback after two years of retirement from boxing. Immediately, frenzied excitement began to surround the Johnson-Jeffries fight, one which would hold immense racial consequences, at least in the eyes of the public. This is because many viewed Jeffries as the “Great White Hope”, one whose civilization and virtue would triumph over the savagery and baseness that Jack Johnson represented. He carried the White Man’s Burden, and it was his duty to defeat Johnson and regain the championship title from a man who didn’t truly deserve it. Now, say what you will about Jack Johnson’s private life or his virtue, but there is no denying that he is one of the greatest prizefighters in history, and he most certainly deserved that heavyweight title. But to most fans of the day, however, the color of his skin said otherwise.

Ultimately, this fight was regarded as a battle for racial supremacy. If Jeffries were to win, fans believed it would cement the discriminatory belief that whites were superior to blacks in both intellect and physicality. If Johnson were to win, on the other hand, many feared it would cause African Americans to gain hope and pride in their race and possibly bring about a race war. This sentiment was felt by most white fans, but also by several conservative blacks, many of whom were admirers of Booker T. Washington. Johnson’s extravagant lifestyle discomfited them, and they believed he would disrupt the order they wished to achieve, as well as cause an eventual violent white reaction.

This attitude toward the fight makes one wonder why it had to define the superiority of one race over the other. Why couldn’t both be equal? Why did the talent of one man in the boxing ring have to define the supremacy of an entire group of people? Would there always be a battle to try to defeat the other race, fighting each other instead of working together? This belief in racial supremacy essentially captures the ideas behind race and equality (or lack thereof) of this time period, and shows all that was to be accomplished in the coming century. After all, when Jackie Robinson hit his first home run off a white pitcher, did that mean the black race had championed the white race? When Althea Gibson first won Wimbledon against a white opponent, were African Americans suddenly superior? Of course not. It doesn’t matter that a black athlete defeated a white one, nor would it matter if the situations were reversed. Rather, these achievements are noteworthy and groundbreaking because these athletes were given a chance to excel in their respective sports instead of being hindered by their race.

When African American athletes became champions, it proved that blacks had the same capabilities of whites to be the best in a sport, not that they were the best race. And ultimately, it was this attitude that would transcend athletics and take root in the civil rights movement. That whites and blacks are equal. That they deserve the same opportunities, the same chances to succeed. From there, achievements are merely representative of the individual, not the entire race to which they belong. In the end, all that matters is that each individual is treated with the same respect and equality as those around them, regardless of the color of their skin.

In the end, Jack Johnson would soundly defeat Jim Jeffries, reaffirming his status as the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Did it bring about a race war? No. Were whites suddenly inferior to blacks? No. Did discrimination, segregation, and belief in African American inferiority continue for decades following this victory? Unfortunately yes, and it would be a long time before equality was finally achieved. What matters, however, is that it was achieved, at least as much as has been done up to today. Neither race is superior. Neither is inferior. And if we want to achieve ultimate racial equality, a battle that has been continually fought ever since Abraham Lincoln first signed the Emancipation Proclamation, then we must stop examining the question of racial supremacy. Let it rest. Stop dividing between racial lines, and instead look to blur these lines and merge into one race- the human race.

 

Works Cited:

Miller, Patrick B., and David Kenneth Wiggins. Sport and the Color Line: Black Athletes and Race Relations in Twentieth-century America. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.