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Title:Sporting correspondents: African American baseball players in the Americas, 1910 – 1950
Author(s):Campbell, Brian E.
Director of Research:Burgos, Adrian
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Burgos, Adrian
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hertzman, Marc; Hoganson, Kristin; Mumford, Kevin; Sotomayor, Antonio
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Black press
African American
Latin America
Abstract:In the early twentieth century, hundreds of African American baseball players traveled to Latin American nations in search of increased financial opportunities. They left the Negro Leagues as skilled laborers who understood that Mexico and Cuba, for example, valued their athletic abilities and talent. As they supplemented their incomes, ballplayers began to experience life outside of the United States for the first time. They recognized differences in social customs and practice while competing on teams with lighter-skinned Latinos and white players from the United States. African American ballplayers traveled in a sports network of exchange of people and information. Most importantly, these athletes worked alongside sportswriters in the black press, making their lived experiences legible for readers of black newspapers. “Sporting Correspondents: African American Baseball Players in the Americas, 1910-1950” argues that black sportswriters and sojourning ballplayers worked as critical international correspondents for black news publications in the first half of the twentieth century. After spending summer or winter months in Latin America, athletes returned home and visited headquarters of major black newspapers to tell stories about the sporting life abroad. Ballplayers spoke about their experiences with access to accommodations and professional achievement abroad. In turn, journalists derived meaning from the ballplayers’ encounters with race and the color line in Latin America. Correspondents adopted a civil rights framework for analyzing the presence or absence of systemic racism abroad. This finite framework limited their perspective, however. Ballplayers and journalists often uncritically accepted notions of racial democracy and brushed aside evidence of discrimination and inequality as byproducts of U.S. imperialism. Sports figures did not grapple with the historical legacies of Spanish colonialism and slavery in Latin America. They also brought a touristic gaze that drew markers of difference and distinction between them and the people they encountered abroad. Ultimately, this dissertation suggests that by examining the phenomenon of sojourning ballplayers and the production of news surrounding it, historians can glean a more complex picture of black Americans’ global travel in the early twentieth century. Sporting correspondents did not seek to form sustained political ties to other African-descended people in the Americas. Instead, they focused their attention squarely on desegregation. By the 1940s, the transnational journeys of Negro-league baseball players functioned to critique structural racism in the United States. As correspondents, black sports figures used a popular form of entertainment like sports as a vehicle for observing and understanding race and rights in the first half of the twentieth century. By doing so, they expanded the domestic and international freedom dreams of black Americans in the first half of the twentieth century.
Issue Date:2021-04-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Brian Campbell
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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