African American Athlete: Their Role in American Culture

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Sports played and continue to play a pivotal role in American history and culture. Baseball provided an escape from the stress and frustration of WWII, a beacon of light during hard times and later helped influence integration. Athletes became symbols of what being a true American meant and many sports enhanced American culture. One of the most prolific changes sports brought to our society was the beginning of racial equality on the field. It encouraged and aided the fledgling equal rights movement that evolved in the 1960s. African American athletes were considered second-class citizen until sports provided the first taste of equality. Teams life the Indians, Dodgers and Giants led the way for all teams to accept black players on equal footing. More sports then followed, helping to pave the way for the equal rights movement. African American athletes provided a spark of social and cultural change as America was at the emergence of the civil rights movement. Discrimination and segregation of African Americans had existed for generations. Whites and blacks were separated in schools, churches, on buses, in restaurants and on the playing fields. In the early 1900’s, there was not only continued bias towards African Americans; many lived in contiguous neighborhoods, minimizing interaction with other Americans. Sports where African Americans once demonstrated dominance such as cycling and horse racing discriminated also. Cyclist Marshall “Major” Taylor at one time dominated American cycling until “jealous white rivals colluded to force Taylor to see his sustenance in Europe by 1901” (Wiggins, p.158) Taylor was a pioneer for African American athletes. He “overcame the constraints of a society bounded by the racial hypocrisy... ... middle of paper ... ...l, 1945- 1972. Bison book original. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Voigt, David Quentin. 1983; 1966. American baseball. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. Tygiel, Jules. 2001; 2000. Past time: Baseball as history. Oxford England; New York: Oxford University Press. Dorinson, Joseph, and Joram Warmund. 1998. Jackie Robinson :Race, Sports, and The American Dream. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe. Lanctot, Neil. 2004. Negro league baseball :The rise and ruin of a black institution. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Miller, Patrick B. Wiggins, David K. Sport and the color line: Black athletes and Race relations in Twentieth-century America. 2004. The Journal of Southern History 70 (4) (Nov 2004): 990. Simon, Scott. 2002. Jackie Robinson and the integration of Baseball. Turning points. Hoboken, N.J.: J. Wiley & Sons.

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