Professor Chris Lamb’s Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball, originally published in 2012, released in paperback this month.
The campaign to desegregate baseball was one of the most important civil rights stories of the 1930s and 1940s. But most of white America knew nothing about this story because mainstream newspapers said little about the color line and still less about the efforts to end it. Even today, as far as most Americans know, the integration of baseball revolved around Branch Rickey’s signing of Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ organization in 1945. This book shows how Rickey’s move, critical as it may have been, came after more than a decade of work by Black and left-leaning journalists to desegregate the game. Between 1933 and 1945, Black newspapers and the communist Daily Worker published hundreds of articles and editorials calling for an end to baseball’s color line, while white mainstream sportswriters perpetuated the color line by participating in what their Black counterparts called a “conspiracy of silence.”
Conspiracy of Silence won the Best Book on Journalism and Mass Communication History by the Association Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in August 2013.
Praise for the book:
Jon Meacham praised the book in the New York Times Book Review last year
“An invaluable addition to studies about the tragic barring of blacks from Major League Baseball for almost half of the twentieth century. . . . An independent, moving analysis of a crucial era in American race relations,” Arnold Rampersad, author of Jackie Robinson: A Biography
“Lamb . . . brings all his scholarly tools to the project. . . . The author has documented a story of immense cultural importance.”—Kirkus Starred Review
“[Conspiracy of Silence] is a valuable resource for students of baseball history and for readers concerned with the history of race relations and the media in this country.”—Robert Bruce Slater, Library Journal
“Conspiracy of Silence offers overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of the black press in advancing integration in this country.”—Dorothy Seymour Mills, New York Journal
“This is important, overdue work.”—Gene Sapakoff, Post and Courier
“Sure, everyone knows about baseball’s color line and the man who crossed it. But no one has ever sifted the soil where that line was drawn, and found as much gold, as Chris Lamb does in Conspiracy of Silence.”—Gary Smith, writer for Sports Illustrated
“Understanding the curious intersection of sports and politics is always a perilous journey. But with Chris Lamb as a guide, it’s more than a joy. It’s a revelation.”—Dave Zirin, author of A People’s History of Sports in the U.S.
Chris Lamb is a Professor in the Department of Journalism and Public Relations, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI