Out of the Shadows


A Biographical History of African American Athletes
David K. Wiggins
978-1-55728-876-9 (paper)
February 2008


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The original essays in this comprehensive collection examine the lives and sports of famous and not-so- famous African American men and women athletes from the nineteenth century to today. Here are twenty insightful biographies that furnish perspectives on the changing status of these athletes and how the changes mirrored the transformation of sport, American society, and civil rights legislation.

Out of the Shadows shows us athletes struggling to make it in a Jim Crow society—Jimmy Winkfield in horse racing, Marshall Taylor in bicycling, William Henry Lewis in football, and Jack Johnson—and those achieving success on an international stage while suffering segregation at home—Ora Washington (tennis), Satchel Paige, Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Alice Coachman (track and field), and Jackie Robinson. In the twentieth century athletes saw opportunities to fight for civil rights through their performances as was the case with Althea Gibson (tennis), Wilma Rudolph, Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, and Arthur Ashe. Today’s successful African American athletes, such as Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Venus and Serena Williams, deal with issues of race and celebrity culture.

The contributors to this collection are some of today’s best authors of sports history, including Gerald Early, Anthony O. Edmonds, Gerald R. Gems, and Donald Spivey. Together, these biographies not only provide insightful analyses of the athletes’ careers, they tell a fascinating two-hundred-year-long story about the complex relationship between race and sport in America and how some gifted individuals achieved success on the playing field despite difficult living conditions and economic circumstances.

David K. Wiggins, a leading authority on African American sports, is a professor and director of the School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism at George Mason University. He is the editor of a number of books in the field, including The Unlevel Playing Field and Sport and the Color Line, both edited with Patrick Miller, and is the author of Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White World.

He is the editor of the University of Arkansas Press series Sport, Culture, and Society.

“Wiggins has done a splendid job of rounding up first-rate historians. . . . As probably the foremost authority on African American sports, Wiggins has provided the connective tendons to hold the body of essays together. . . . Job well done.”
—Randy Roberts, author of Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes

“Highly recommended. . . . The diversity in terms of time periods and personalities should help attract a broad readership. . . . Strongly grounded in research, with a mixture of historical facts and scholarly analysis. . . . It will be well received.”
—Charles K. Ross, author of Outside the Line and editor of Race and Sport

“Edited by the U.S.’s foremost historian of African American athletes. . . the 19 contributors are as varied as the athletes. Some are members of the ‘sports-historical establishment,’ others are at the start of their careers, and one, Gerald Early, is a distinguished literary scholar. Wiggins chose them well. They meet his high standards. . . . Essential.”
—Allen Guttmann, Choice Magazine

“This book examines 100 years of race relations, using 20 athletes as a lens on American society. Some names are familiar—Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson—but others are mostly unknown today—Jimmy Winkfield, Ora Washington. Each entry contains information about the athlete’s career and post-career life, as well as an analysis of the role race played in the individual’s success. . . . Should find a place in larger libraries.”
School Library Journal

Adopted at: University of Washington
Course: AES 335, Sports and Social Change in the Twentieth Century
Course Description: Development of sport in the United States and its importance for U.S. culture and society. Covers increased centrality of athletic competition as part of the new leisure time in the late nineteenth century, revival of the Olympic movement, racial segregation/integration, today’s American notions of celebrity and social style.
Professor: Terry A. Scott
Term: Spring 2015