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Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City

Overview

In 1957, nine African American teenagers faced angry mobs and the resistance of a segregationist governor to claim their right to educational equality. The bravery of the Little Rock Nine, as they became known, captured the country’s imagination and made history but created deep scars in the community.

 

Jay Jennings, a veteran sportswriter and native son of Little Rock, returned to his hometown to take the pulse of the city and the school as the fiftieth anniversary of the...

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Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City

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Overview

In 1957, nine African American teenagers faced angry mobs and the resistance of a segregationist governor to claim their right to educational equality. The bravery of the Little Rock Nine, as they became known, captured the country’s imagination and made history but created deep scars in the community.

 

Jay Jennings, a veteran sportswriter and native son of Little Rock, returned to his hometown to take the pulse of the city and the school as the fiftieth anniversary of the integration fight approached. He found a compelling story in the school’s football team, where black and white students came together under longtime coach Bernie Cox, whose philosophy of discipline and responsibility and punishing brand of physical football know no color. A very private man, Cox nevertheless allowed Jennings full access to the team, from a preseason program in July through the Tigers’ final game in November. As in A Season on the Brink, the coach finds his ideas sorely tested in his attempts to unify the team, and the result is a story brimming with humor, compassion, frustration, and honesty.

 

As Carry the Rock chronicles the dramatic ups and downs of a high school football season, it reveals a city struggling with its legacy of racial tension and grappling with complex, subtle issues of contemporary segregation. What Friday Night Lights did for small-town Texas, Carry the Rock does for the urban south and for any place like Little Rock, where sports, race, and community intersect.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Fifty years after the first nine black students at Little Rock's Central High were escorted into the Arkansas school by National Guard troops, Little Rock native and resident Jennings (former reporter, Sports Illustrated; editor, Tennis and the Meaning of Life) spent the 2007 football season with the Central football team. Through Jennings, we get to know Bernie Cox, the school's coach for the last 30 years, his assistant coaches, and, to a lesser extent, his players. The first third of the book leaps back and forth in time to a confusing degree between the lackluster present and the town's racial history. The author portrays a city still divided by race along the layout of the freeway through town and through local school board politics, often bisected neatly along racial lines as well. However, the mixing of high school football and urban sociology do not mesh with much resonance here for either football fans or general readers. VERDICT Not particularly revealing, this book may be of greatest interest in the region of its subject.—John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ. Lib., Camden, NJ
From the Publisher
“Jennings writes . . . with authority and power.” New York Times Book Review

 

“A rich portrait of a complicated place and its people.” Arkansas Times

 

Carry the Rock transcends the season-on-the-brink genre.” The Wall Street Journal

 

“A great sports book” Arkansas Leader

 

“A native son juxtaposes passion for football and the tumultuous history of race relations in Little Rock. The result is a must-read page-turner.”—Minnijean Brown Trickey, Little Rock Nine member

 

“Because history has decreed a special role for Little Rock Central High, its Tigers have become more than your typical football team. Like the community and the school, they, too, are caught up in forces—racial, social, demographic, economic—that are larger than themselves. This book is an absorbing, touching chronicle of Coach Bernie Cox’s struggling 2007 Tiger team.” —David Margolick, author of Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock

 

“A sweeping yet nuanced portrait of race in America— a picture of how far we have come since the Little Rock Nine made their historic stand and of how far we still have to go.” —Jonathan Mahler, author of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605296371
  • Publisher: Rodale Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 9.54 (w) x 11.06 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Jay Jennings is a former reporter for Sports Illustrated and has contributed to publications from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to Vogue and Entertainment Weekly. He lives in Little Rock.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Upon This Rock xi

Chapter 1 The Distant Goal 1

Chapter 2 Building Central High 21

Chapter 3 Speeches And Judgments 51

Chapter 4 "We Got no Leaders" 71

Chapter 5 Making A Stand 99

Chapter 6 Road to Ruin 117

Chapter 7 Face to Face 133

Chapter 8 Chemistry and Consequences 153

Chapter 9 On the Offensive 171

Chapter 10 The Distant Goal (Continued) 191

Epilogue 221

Acknowledgments 229

Selected Sources 233

Index 245

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