Slavery, Segregation and Civil Rights: Their Impact on American Sports Norman A. Fisher, Jr.
To many people, the sports world is a place in which none of the normal problems of the "real" world could possibly exist. The participants seem to be rich beyond measure, many are educated and well spoken, and though there are disputes, they usually center on money-not trivial problems like poverty and homelessness. Many also believe that the sports world is a model of race relations for the rest of society. Through television and other media coverage, fans see that on the playing field it does not matter whether you are black or white, what matters is your ability. Therefore, sports are often used as a paradigm of how an integrated society should look. A more sensitive look at the sports world reveals that this idyllic picture is misleading. Although in the major professional sports and college sports today the majority of players are African-American, this does not mean that racism is absent. In college athletics black athletes often deal with racial stereotypes, isolation from the rest of the campus, and the reality that they are in school to play sports, not to get a degree. Furthermore, African-Americans are underrepresented in the coaching and administrative ranks throughout college sports. The professional sports picture shows more integration on the playing field, but few chances for management or other opportunities after a career is over. This research paper will analyze the effect of Slavery, Segregation and civil rights on sports. The first section will deal with the athletic recreational habits of slaves on southern plantations. The second section will provide an overview of segregation as it relates to equity issues. The third section will provide an overview of the role of sports upon the civil right movement.
Sports in Shackles
The general views people have on slavery, quantitative analysis showed that the majority of individuals identify slavery as a racist institution, defining slaves simplistically as masses of people involved within it. This perception is not far off from the views of those who initially forced Africans from their homelands hundreds of years ago. Historically it is easy to lose count of the over thirteen million slaves taken from Africa. Legends have developed from countless stories about American slavery and these tales laid the foundations for famous characters in history books and literary works. However, each slave, whether born in America or Africa, famous or not, was a person. Every slave had a face, a name, a family, and a life. Despite the institution of slavery and the harsh conditions presented by plantation life; tradition, culture and individuality were preserved within the numerous slaves whose voices are not heard in history books. These were men, women, and children who aimed to step beyond the social boundaries branded upon them by slavery. The life of the American slave is a topic that maintains distinct variables of cultural and social interaction. The institution of slavery oppressed Africans and African-Americans as a people; however, their will to experience a normal setting through cultural entities such as music, religion, and sports is the essential narrative on the accurate story of millions of people who have been lost in one of history's darkest sagas. Though sports were an outlet for slave individuality, these communal and individual events did not restrict the plantation owners' firm grasp on the individual freedoms of slaves in an attempt to limit their knowledge of the outside world. (Davis, 2006) Overseers and owners held slaves under rules regarding all aspects of life, including recreation and sports. Countless slaves lacked the proper equipment and venues to participate in certain sports. According to the Georgia slave narratives, one slave on a plantation on the...
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