With spring training already in full-swing, baseball season is right around the corner. It was baseball that brought one of the first professional African-American athletes, Jackie Robinson, to the forefront of the sports world. We now live in a society where African-American athletes are among the best in any sport, but it hasn’t always been easy for them. Robinson undoubtedly faced much ridicule and racism as he wowed people all over the country with his abilities. It is this month of February that we honor him and all those like him.
Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month, is an annual observance in the United States. It began in 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced that the second week of February would be “Negro History Week.” Last week marked the birth dates of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both of whom played very influential parts in African-American history.
The United States federal government acknowledged and expanded Black History Week to Black History Month due to a few leaders at Kent State University (Ohio) who wanted the celebration to encompass the entire month in February 1969. The first official Black History Month was celebrated at Kent State University in 1970.
While there are far too many African-American heroes to be honored in only one month, some may debate the need for an entire month dedicated to the history of one race. Being that African-Americans have held leading roles in the shaping of American culture especially in the realm of sport, what sports enthusiast could argue the need for this celebration?
As we have learned from Dana Brooks and Ronald Althouse in Racism in College Athletic, “Sport has been a place of courage and achievement for African American athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators who have been given the chance to play, coach, and administer college sports… Deeds of the past need not be visited upon African Americans in the future, but for full equality and opportunity to be achieved for African American college athletes, coaches, and administrators, a number of still unresolved problems must be addressed.”
According to Richard Lapchick, author of 100 Pioneers: African-American Athletes Who Broke Color Barriers in Sport, “Sports and race relations have traveled throughout most of history on a parallel plane…Most importantly, sport is unique in the boundaries it crosses with both its participants and its audience. Differences in gender, race, physical and mental abilities, age, religion, and cultures are irrelevant in the huddle, on the field, in the gym, or in the water. Sport smashes these barriers like nothing else can.”
There has always existed a certain degree of racism in sport. However, professor and dean at WVU College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences, Dana Brooks; and professor of sociology and director of the Survey and Research Center at WVU, Ronald Althouse, have edited a book that explores and researches Racism in College Athletics specifically. http://fitinfotech.com/RacismCollegeAthletics3rd.html
Quite a few African-American athletes broke color barriers in their sport, and 100 of them are discussed in 100 Pioneers: African-Americans Who Broke Color Barriers in Sport. http://fitinfotech.com/100PioneersAfricanAmericansWhoBrokeColorBarriersSport.tpl
Any reader with zeal for sport and its boundaries within race and ethnicity will grow significantly from reading Sport, Race, and Ethnicity: Narratives of Difference and Diversity, edited by Daryl Adair. http://fitinfotech.com/SportRaceandEthnicity.html
Reading Baseball: Books, Biographies, and the Business of the Game provides a commentary on the history and evolution of baseball as a game and as a business. Reading Baseball also recognizes the importance of race and the Civil Rights Movement; and those larger than life characters, players, managers, owners and others who have been part of baseball’s grand parade.