Profiles of college athletes and teams that challenged the color line in America
Men's College Athletics and the Politics of Racial Equality
Five Pioneer Stories of Black Manliness, White Citizenship, and American Democracy
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Gregory J. Kaliss
College sports have provided a compelling means to the discussion of issues regarding racial equality and fairness in American life. As previously-white institutions of higher learning gradually (and grudgingly) opened their playing fields to African American athletes in men's basketball and football, black and white spectators interpreted mixed-race team sports in often contradictory ways. In Men's College Athletics and the Politics of Racial Equality, Gregory Kaliss offers stunning insights into Americans' contested visions of equality, fairness, black manhood, citizenship, and an equal opportunity society.
Kaliss looks at Paul Robeson, Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Jackie Robinson, Wilt Chamberlain, Charlie Scott, Bear Bryant, John Mitchell, and Wilbur Jackson to show how Americans responded to racial integration over time. Men's College Athletics and the Politics of Racial Equality reveals that as fans, media members, university students, faculty, and administration—black and white—discussed the achievements and struggles of these athletes, they inevitably talked about much more than what occurred on the field.
"Kaliss illuminates alternative opinions on integrated sports in a well-written and thoroughly researched book that validates many of the alternative assertions and conclusions about race relations in the United States. He manages to situate the subject matter in a credible discussion of society and history, thus furthering our understanding of racial beliefs and anxieties about integration. Kaliss demonstrates that while both white and black presses were enthusiastic about sports for different reasons during different periods, they gave the integration of college sports vastly different meanings."
"Kaliss examines five stories of pioneering African American athletes.... explaining how the athletes sought to achieve full citizenship through their athletic achievements.... He argues that their responses reveal much more than just what occurred on the playing field.... Summing Up: Recommended."
"In his ambitious Men’s College Athletics and the Politics of Racial Equality, Gregory J. Kaliss examines the intersection of race, politics, and manliness in American intercollegiate athletics in the twentieth century. Kaliss’s book stands apart from other works that have tackled those complex issues because of his case study approach, his particular scholarly focus, and the lengthy coverage he gives to his subject matter.... Kaliss offers detailed analyses.... The different strands of Kaliss’s analysis come together best in his case study on Robeson.... In two other strong case studies Kaliss focuses on the 1939 University of California, Los Angeles, football team, which featured Jackie Robinson, and on Wilt Chamberlain’s basketball career at the University of Kansas.... Overall, Kaliss makes a valuable addition to the scholarship on American sports. His work underscores the value of using newspapers, in particular black newspapers, in the pursuit of scholarly analysis."
"[A] careful study of five significant episodes in the racial integration of college football and basketball.... The five episodes selected by the author fit together nicely in chronological, geographical, and thematic progression.... Kaliss deserves praise for attempting to do more than merely chronicle the triumphs and travails of racial pioneers....[T]he book is a timely reminder that racial barriers in athletics were not exclusive to the South, and it makes a useful contribution to the study of college sports integration."
"[A] complex and nuanced study, Kaliss clearly shows that there were significant regional and chronological variations in the reactions to integration.... Kaliss makes his case convincingly."
"Men’s College Athletics and the Politics of Racial Equality is a highly engaging and insightful study that situates these black athletes in a wider cultural context and that is able to demonstrate what they represented for different sections of society."
Gregory J. Kaliss is Research Associate in American Studies at Franklin and Marshall College and coeditor of volume 9 of the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers Project.