Masters Thesis

Full Court Press: Rebellion, Resistance, and the Black Athletes of the Civil Rights Movement

During the Civil Rights era of the United States, several black athletes transcended their roles as physical competitors and transitioned into the realm of social politics. Unsatisfied with their social status as mere athletic figures, these men used their cultural relevance as a platform to demand racial equality and citizenship for all African Americans. However, when they did, they were often met with significant resistance from the white power structures of America. Mainstream culture was willing to accept these men as sports stars and entertainers, but not as equal citizens. Lingering ideologies based upon social Darwinian beliefs and Jim Crow policies still plagued the nation, and prevented athletes like Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Bill Russell from completely assimilating into American society. The result is an intersection of sport, culture, race, and politics at a critical point in the history of our nation.

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