Dr. Chris Lamb’s chapter in the new book, 42 Today: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy is on the differences in how the story of Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball was covered by Black and white sportswriters. The signing of Robinson was perhaps the most important story about civil rights in the years immediately following World War II. To Black newspapers, the announcement that Robinson had been signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers organization meant a new day for fairness and equality. To Black sportswriters, many of whom had condemned bigotry and fought for the integration of baseball, gave the story the context to connect it to the larger issue of civil rights in society such as fair housing, racial justice, and good schools.
White America knew little or nothing about Black writers, singers, doctors, educators, and business owners because nothing was said of them in their newspapers. But Americans knew about Black athletes who participated in the Olympics, in boxing, in college and in the Negro baseball leagues. Little, however, was said in white newspapers about segregation in sports. Black and Communist sportswriters and progressive politicians crusaded for the end of segregated baseball in columns and in speeches. White sportswriters, like team owners and league presidents, opposed integration. Shortly before Robinson went to his first spring training, New York sportswriters met behind closed doors and performed a minstrel skit where one of them pretending to be Robinson, wearing a baseball uniforms and in blackface, and spoke in dialect.
The chapter was also featured in a post on The Undefeated.
Chris Lamb is a Professor in the Department of Journalism and Public Relations, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI