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Not the Triumph but the Struggle: The 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete

Amy Bass
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 462
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  • Book Info
    Not the Triumph but the Struggle
    Book Description:

    In this far-reaching account, Amy Bass offers nothing less than a history of the black athlete. Beginning with the racial eugenics discussions of the early twentieth century and their continuing reverberations in popular perceptions of black physical abilities, Bass explores ongoing African American attempts to challenge these stereotypes. Although Tommie Smith and John Carlos were reviled by Olympic officials for their demonstration, Bass traces how their protest has come to be the defining image of the 1968 Games, with lingering effects in the sports world and on American popular culture generally.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9365-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Note on Usage
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: A Tiger in the Woods
    (pp. xv-xxii)

    In 1997, when Tiger Woods won the Masters and donned the green jacket that accompanies the preeminent title, golf became thrilling to watch for an entirely new audience. The hush of the announcers, the roar of the golfing fans (yes,roar, and yes, fans), the screaming headlines in the next morning’s sports pages, the discussions that surrounded the water cooler, and the unprecedented millions of dollars bestowed upon the young athlete by various corporate entities all indicated that something important had happened. On the hallowed (putting) greens of Augusta, where Woods would not have been allowed membership relatively few years...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Race between Politics and Sport
    (pp. 1-36)

    In 1995, Robert Lipsyte initiated a public exchange with his tirade about what he described as the “emasculation of sports” in the United States, which provides a nicely summarized critical perspective of the athletic arena in American culture.

    As a mirror of our culture, sports now show us spoiled fools as role models, cities and colleges held hostage and games that exist only to hawk products. The pathetic posturing of in-your-face macho has replaced a once self-confident masculinity. And the truth and beauty of sport itself—a pleasure of the flesh to the participant, an ennobling inspiration to the spectator—...

  7. CHAPTER 2 What Is This “Black” in Black Athlete?
    (pp. 37-80)

    Tommie Smith first had to combat and denounce the prevailing myths of the black body, myths with roots that spanned almost a century. Early African American boxing champions illustrate the historical precedent for Smith’s predicament. In 1910, when Jack Johnson battled Jim Jeffries—“the great white hope”—while the ringside band played “All Coons Look Alike to Me,” it was, as historian Gail Bederman notes, “a national sensation.”¹ While he had refused to fight any black contenders during his own reign as champion, Jeffries yielded to national pressure and came out of retirement to bring the coveted title back to...

  8. CHAPTER 3 An Olympic Challenge: Preparing for the “Problem Games”
    (pp. 81-130)

    Scientific studies between the two world wars authoritatively worked to establish Negro as a separate category of physique that habitually existed outside national and ethnic classifications. But the construction of the black athlete, obviously, was not left entirely to those in the laboratory. Rather, organic political discourse actively positioned the athlete in wide-ranging civil rights efforts that accompanied the close of World War II, creating the important social and cultural transformation of a “Negro” athlete into a decidedly “black” one. Individual victories over Jim Crow in the early postwar period—what historian Brenda Plummer has called “the age of ‘Negro...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Power of Protest and Boycott: The New York Athletic Club and the Question of the South African Springboks
    (pp. 131-184)

    American media focused a lot of attention on the spectacles of the Mexican student uprisings, particularly when the furor regarding the Olympic Project for Human Rights began to subside. Most observers felt confident that African American athletes would fall into line and the U.S. team would compete as a single, cohesive entity. Indeed, Stan Wright, the only African American member of the U.S. Olympic coaching staff, commented, “As far as we’re concerned, the boycott issue is dead. We’re here to win medals.”¹

    What Wright did not count on, however, was the possible alliances that could be built, conjecturally if not...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Tribulations and the Trials: Black Consciousness and the Collective Body
    (pp. 185-232)

    As Bob Beamon waited for the long jump to be called at the New York Athletic Club meet, his coach, Wayne Vandenburg, who had suspended team members for political activity in the past, reminded him that he did not have to participate, saying, “It’s your decision, it’s anindividualdecision.”¹ Vandenburg failed to recognize how Beamon’s decision to take part in the meet had consequences that extended beyond his own immediate future. Increasingly, the collective force generated by the OPHR ensured that such choices impacted everyone connected, voluntarily or not, to the designation “black athlete.”

    Both the NYAC and the...

  11. CHAPTER 6 “That’s My Flag”
    (pp. 233-290)

    When the U.S. Olympic track team, seventy-seven members strong, arrived in Mexico, it faced many questions from the international press regarding the political role of the self-proclaimed black athletes on the team. As reporters descended upon the athletes with questions about political militancy, the Americans sang the national anthem in the Plaza de las Banderas in the Olympic Village while Ambassador Fulton Freeman and USOC president Douglas Roby raised the American flag. Although U.S. track coach Payton Jordan assured reporters that there would be “no trouble whatever” and assistant coach Stan Wright insisted “there will be no demonstrations,” the words...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars?
    (pp. 291-348)

    The many classifications of the black power protest suggested that its legacy would not end in Mexico City. OneEbonyreader’s lament for the failed boycott, for example, saw the action of Smith and Carlos as a call to arms and pledged that “black people of these United States shouldn’t participate in the Olympics, shouldn’t be forced to pay income taxes, and shouldn’t be drafted to fight these racist wars until they are accepted as first class citizens.”¹ In Los Angeles, such propositions had an immediate effect. The city had drafted a substantial and welcomed bid to the IOC to...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 349-424)
  14. Index
    (pp. 425-438)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 439-439)