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


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However, there is more to this story than Rickey and Robinson. In fact, the desegregation of baseball came after a decade-long campaign by black and left wing journalists and activists, which I detail in my book Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball. Beginning in the s, black sportswriters , notably Wendell Smith and Sam Lacy, made baseball part of a larger crusade to confront Jim Crow laws.

Their columns galvanized support among their readers, and their interviews with white major leaguers demonstrated that many players had no objections to playing with blacks. The United States Communist Party sought to recruit blacks , in particular, because of the severity of racism in the United States. And communists believed they could win the hearts and minds of black Americans if they could desegregate professional baseball, which had prohibited blacks since the 19th century.


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During the next decade, that paper published hundreds of columns and articles calling for the desegregation of baseball. Its sportswriters excoriated the baseball establishment for perpetuating the color ban and pressured major league owners to give tryouts to black ballplayers. At the same time, labor unions organized picket lines and petition drives outside major league ballparks, collecting more than a million signatures. Vito Marcantonio, an East Harlem congressman, called on the U.

Commerce Department to investigate racial discrimination in major league baseball. Meanwhile, State Senator Charles Perry introduced multiple resolutions in the state Legislature condemning baseball for discriminating against black players. The Committee to End Jim Crow in Baseball had scores of prominent members and received letters of endorsement from such influential figures as Eleanor Roosevelt and singer, actor and lecturer Paul Robeson.

Chris Lamb

In late , Branch Rickey became president of the Dodgers after serving for two decades as a team executive for the St. Louis Cardinals. Rickey knew that the communists and other progressives were clamoring for integration but made no attempt to engage them. Rickey biographer Lee Lowenfish called the baseball executive a political conservative who despised communism and labor unions. But World War II forced many white Americans — especially those who served with black soldiers — to reconsider their views on discrimination.

This resulted in anti-discriminatory legislation that helped create the framework for the civil rights movement. La Guardia appointed Rickey to the committee.

In early August, the Committee to End Jim Crow in Baseball announced it would organize a march to support the integration of baseball. The march was canceled after La Guardia assured the committee he was committed to resolving the issue before leaving office at the end of the year. Later that month, Rickey secretly met with Jackie Robinson and signed him to a contract. Rickey did not want to make the news public until he signed a number of other players from the Negro leagues. Powers's piece included the results of a survey he had taken among several baseball executives and ballplayers asking whether they objected to the presence of blacks in the major leagues.


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Powers found that most of them did not, prompting him to call on baseball to follow the lead of other sports and initiate integrated play. Over the next decade, Powers continued to criticize the color line, and a handful of other white journalists--including Shirley Povich and Westbrook Pegler--joined him from time to time, but, overall, the conspiracy of silence among white mainstream sports reporters held strong. Black journalists themselves said little about baseball's color barrier until the s.

Prior to that time, they "committed their energies toward building up black baseball rather than desegregating white baseball" According to Lamb, taking a stance against the sport's color line rarely crossed the mind of black sportswriters of this era because racial separation was so deeply entrenched that it seemed to be an unalterable fact of life. Moreover, many African American sportswriters were part of the black baseball establishment during this period and therefore felt duty bound to help black baseball grow.

Finally, black baseball executives, like their white counterparts, expected black sportswriters to preserve black baseball. By the early s, however, the "cozy" relationship between black sportswriters and executive had ended 75 and black journalists had begun to question the color line.

fadaloba.ml New York Yankees outfielder Jake Powell's use of a racial slur during a radio interview and the outbreak of World War II in Europe, which led many to question how the US government could denounce Hitler's bigoted Nazi regime while tolerating racial injustice at home, motivated black sportswriters to launch an all-out assault against baseball's color barrier. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.

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Read preview. By Joanne M.

About the Book

Lisosky; Jennifer R.

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

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