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The Historiography Of Race And Discrimination In Baseball And Sports

3903 words - 16 pages

The Historiography of Race and Discrimination in Baseball and Sports
Historical and sociological research has shown, through much evidence collection and analysis of primary documents that the American sporting industry can give an accurate reflection, to a certain extent, of racial struggles and discrimination into the larger context of American society. To understand this stance, a deep look into aspects of sport beyond simply playing the game must be a primary focus. Since the integration of baseball, followed shortly after by American football, why are the numbers of African American owners, coaches and managers so very low? What accounts for the absence of African American candidates from seeking front office and managerial roles? Is a conscious decision made by established members of each organization or is this matter a deeper reflection on society? Why does a certain image and persona exist amongst many African American athletes? Sports historians often take a look at sports and make a comparison to society. Beginning in the early 1980’s, historians began looking at the integration of baseball and how it preceded the civil rights movement. The common conclusion was that integration in baseball and other sports was indeed a reflection on American society. As African Americans began to play in sports, a short time later, Jim Crow laws and segregation formally came to an end in the south. Does racism and discrimination end with the elimination of Jim Crow and the onset of the civil rights movement and other instances of race awareness and equality? According to many modern sports historians and sociologists, they do not. This paper will focus on the writings of selected historians and sociologists who examine the question of race in sports as a reflection of society and who often agree that discrimination does indeed exist in sports, and that, to some degree, this discrimination, whether conscious or unconscious, reflects certain beliefs and justifies “hidden segregation”, (the absence of African Americans in decision making jobs), of American society.
People may look at the successes of African American athletes as evidence of changing perspectives and perceptions to social discrimination. For example, Jack Johnson and Joe Louis, both African American professional boxers, were on top of the boxing world in the early twentieth century despite the existence of Jim Crow in the south and segregation in other professional American sports. Louis was the heavy weight champion of the world for 140 consecutive months. He was in active combat in WWII, and to some, became the first black “hero” in the United States. Along with Olympian Jesse Owens, the United States had two prominent men, both athletes, both African American, whom Americans could cheer for, not only for their athletic achievements, but for their anti-Nazi stance and pro-American demeanor. Artwork and posters of Joe Louis in his Army turnout gear were intended to...

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