Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball

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Overview


The campaign to desegregate baseball was one of the most important civil rights stories of the 1930s and 1940s. But most of white America knew nothing about this story because mainstream newspapers said little about the color line and less about the efforts to end it. Even today, as far as most Americans know, the integration of baseball revolved around Branch Rickey’s signing of Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ organization in 1945. This book shows how Rickey’s move, critical as it may well have been, ...
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Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball

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Overview


The campaign to desegregate baseball was one of the most important civil rights stories of the 1930s and 1940s. But most of white America knew nothing about this story because mainstream newspapers said little about the color line and less about the efforts to end it. Even today, as far as most Americans know, the integration of baseball revolved around Branch Rickey’s signing of Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ organization in 1945. This book shows how Rickey’s move, critical as it may well have been, came after more than a decade of work by black and left-leaning journalists to desegregate the game.

Drawing on hundreds of newspaper articles and interviews with journalists, Chris Lamb reveals how differently black and white newspapers, and black and white America, viewed racial equality. He shows how white mainstream sportswriters perpetuated the color line by participating in what their black counterparts called a “conspiracy of silence.” Between 1933 and 1945, black newspapers and the Communist Daily Worker published hundreds of articles and editorials calling for an end to baseball’s color line. The efforts of the alternative presses to end baseball’s color line, chronicled for the first time in Conspiracy of Silence, constitute one of baseball’s—and the civil rights movement’s—great untold stories.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Journal

"Conspiracy of Silence offers overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of the black press in advancing integration in this country."—Dorothy Seymour Mills, New York Journal

— Dorothy Seymour Mills

Shelf Awareness

"Lamb's thorough journalistic exposé chronicles the drama and history behind the game, while tracing how the desegregation of baseball parallels the story of the civil rights movement in the United States."—Kathleen Gerard, Shelf Awareness

— Kathleen Gerard

Choice

"Though it covers some familiar ground, this solidly researched study introduces new faces to the picture to broaden the context. The clear, bold writing makes the book a joy to read."—L. A. Heaphy, Choice

— L. A. Heaphy

Farther Off The Wall

"Lamb's research shows the struggle that took place in the media had a lot to do with the tug-o-war of ideals and practicality of all the issues involved in the decision. It's as good a book on the subject as we've ever come across."—Tom Hoffarth, Farther Off The Wall

— Tom Hoffarth

Choice - L. A. Heaphy

"Though it covers some familiar ground, this solidly researched study introduces new faces to the picture to broaden the context. The clear, bold writing makes the book a joy to read."—L. A. Heaphy, Choice
New York Journal - Dorothy Seymour Mills

"Conspiracy of Silence offers overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of the black press in advancing integration in this country."—Dorothy Seymour Mills, New York Journal
Shelf Awareness - Kathleen Gerard

"Lamb's thorough journalistic exposé chronicles the drama and history behind the game, while tracing how the desegregation of baseball parallels the story of the civil rights movement in the United States."—Kathleen Gerard, Shelf Awareness
Farther Off The Wall - Tom Hoffarth

"Lamb's research shows the struggle that took place in the media had a lot to do with the tug-o-war of ideals and practicality of all the issues involved in the decision. It's as good a book on the subject as we've ever come across."—Tom Hoffarth, Farther Off The Wall
Kirkus Reviews
The author of Blackout: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Spring Training (2004) returns with a comprehensive account of how journalists--black and white--covered the emerging story of the integration of Major League Baseball. Lamb (Media Studies/Coll. of Charleston) brings all his scholarly tools to the project--most notably, a fierce desire to locate every source, document every significant utterance by a baseball official, player, writer, editor and remain as disinterested as possible in a discussion of a time that reeked with racism and moral cowardice. Emerging as heroes are the black press and the American Communists, whose Daily Worker worked tirelessly to end baseball's apartheid. As Lamb notes, there had been black players in professional baseball in the late 19th century, but that soon ended. Owners drew a color line in the sand (there was no written proscription), then spent decades denying there was such a line, spewing out disingenuous excuses about the abilities of blacks, the fear of race riots and the problem of having black players train in the Jim Crow South. Consequently, black stars like Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and countless others labored in obscurity virtually their entire careers. Lamb begins in 1933 at baseball's winter meetings--and with the minstrel show that was part of their entertainment. Near the end is an account of another owners' meeting in 1946--after the signing of Jackie Robinson--and again the entertainment included racist skits. The author's narrative includes numerous bad guys: owners Clark Griffith, Tom Yawkey and Larry MacPhail, and a laundry list of white journalists, most ignoble of whom was Alfred Henry Spink, who, via his Sporting News, lobbied hard against integration--then picked Robinson as the Rookie of the Year. Although the paragraphs are sometimes thick with detail, the author has documented a story of immense cultural importance.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803210769
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2012
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 834,940
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Chris Lamb, a professor of journalism at the Indiana University School of Journalism, Indianapolis, is the author of Blackout: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Spring Training, available in a Bison Books edition.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2013

    With this work, Lamb, a professor at the Indiana School of Journ

    With this work, Lamb, a professor at the Indiana School of Journalisim provides a conicse and yet wide ranging tome on the role of Sports writers in attempting to help desegregate baseball.


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