Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South

Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South

by Andrew Maraniss
Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South

Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South

by Andrew Maraniss


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New York Times Best Seller
2015 RFK Book Awards Special Recognition
2015 Lillian Smith Book Award
2015 AAUP Books Committee "Outstanding" Title

Based on more than eighty interviews, this fast-paced, richly detailed biography of Perry Wallace, the first African American basketball player in the SEC, digs deep beneath the surface to reveal a more complicated and profound story of sports pioneering than we've come to expect from the genre. Perry Wallace's unusually insightful and honest introspection reveals his inner thoughts throughout his journey.

Wallace entered kindergarten the year that Brown v. Board of Education upended "separate but equal." As a 12-year-old, he sneaked downtown to watch the sit-ins at Nashville's lunch counters. A week after Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Wallace entered high school, and later saw the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. On March 16, 1966, his Pearl High School basketball team won Tennessee's first integrated state tournament--the same day Adolph Rupp's all-white Kentucky Wildcats lost to the all-black Texas Western Miners in an iconic NCAA title game.

The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt recruited him, Wallace courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the SEC. His experiences on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be nothing like he ever imagined.

On campus, he encountered the leading civil rights figures of the day, including Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, and Robert Kennedy--and he led Vanderbilt's small group of black students to a meeting with the university chancellor to push for better treatment.

On the basketball court, he experienced an Ole Miss boycott and the rabid hate of the Mississippi State fans in Starkville. Following his freshman year, the NCAA instituted "the Lew Alcindor rule," which deprived Wallace of his signature move, the slam dunk.

Despite this attempt to limit the influence of a rising tide of black stars, the final basket of Wallace's college career was a cathartic and defiant dunk, and the story Wallace told to the Vanderbilt Human Relations Committee and later The Tennessean was not the simple story of a triumphant trailblazer that many people wanted to hear. Yes, he had gone from hearing racial epithets when he appeared in his dormitory to being voted as the university's most popular student, but, at the risk of being labeled "ungrateful," he spoke truth to power in describing the daily slights and abuses he had overcome and what Martin Luther King had called "the agonizing loneliness of a pioneer."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780826520234
Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press
Publication date: 12/01/2014
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Andrew Maraniss is the New York Times-bestselling author of Strong Inside, the only sports-related book ever to win two prestigious civil rights awards--the Lillian Smith Book Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Awards Special Recognition Prize. Andrew is a contributor to ESPN's sports and race website,, and helps run Vanderbilt University's Sports & Society Initiative. He also writes nonfiction for young readers.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

1 Forgiveness 1

2 Short 26th 2

3 WoompShow 17

4 They Had the Wrong Guy 39

5 Harvard of the South 49

6 These Boys Never Faltered 68

7 Somewhere Like Xanadu 87

8 Reverse Migration 106

9 Growing Pains 112

10 Icicles in Raincoats 122

11 Articulate Messengers 131

12 A Hit or Miss Thing 138

13 Inferno 159

14 Subversion's Circuit Rider 167

15 Trouble in Paradise 188

16 Season of Loss 200

17 Ghosts 215

18 Memorial Magic 222

19 Deepest Sense of Dread 245

20 A Long, Hellish Trauma 252

21 Destiny of Dissent 264

22 Revolt 285

23 The Cruel Deception 298

24 Black Fists 306

25 Nevermore 321

26 Bachelor of Ugliness 328

27 Ticket Out of Town 352

28 Time and Space 366

29 Embrace 392

30 Rising 415

Acknowledgments 419

Notes 423

Bibliography 449

Index 451

Author Biography 468

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