Black Athletes

“It’s a story about this nation and how we got to where we are now,’ Haygood said. ‘It’s a story about courage — a story about a dream that was seemingly shot down on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, but a group of athletes and school teachers and students at an all-black school on the East Side of Columbus, Ohio, said to themselves the dream is more alive now than ever.’ It’s about two teams at Columbus’ East High School in 1968-69 and how their determination to display to their community and to the nation show the world that there was nothing that could keep them down was being displayed.

These were boys with families who lived in poverty, discrimination, and fractured families. This story was about how the student athletes were not going to let that stop their successful stories.

Tigerland book takes place in the aftermath of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis in April 1968 whilst they were undergoing some severe racial tensions.

Despite these tensions, the civil rights movement was still trying to move forward. These families if the student athletes were poor ones. The boys, unfortunately, were thrown into a nation while it was at war and unrest. They were the sons of maids and dishwashers and cafeteria workers. They were said to be too proud to beg, they simply did not not to ask nor did they beg for even the things that they so desperately needed. The mothers of the families came along with waves of people who had come from the Deep South in 1945 known as the Great Migration.

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Their mothers could only advise and motivate their sons to focus on their futures. Especially because they were living in a very dangerous era.

In 1968, so much change was taking place. Both good and bad change was in effect. Wil Haywood did an extraordinary job on producing a focused narrative that was grounded in one community. ‘I really admire people like these athletes,’ Haygood said. ‘They did their jobs that year and in their own way, held a city together.” At this point in time, America was facing great turmoil. MLK Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy attempted to do something about the poverty. They worked very hard towards integration.

The books underscores how sports can overshadow racism, violence, and even politics. Black athletes, such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Jackie Robinson and Wilt Chamberlain, have definitely aided in the paving of the way for the civil rights movement. The gym at the high school couldn’t accommodate the many people who wanted to see them play. So the Tigers needed up playing most of their basketball games through that cold winter conditions at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. Despite the unfit conditions, the Tigers had one goal. And they just couldn’t stop winning. They were so quick and agile basketball and baseball players, these boys were blessed with their athletic capabilities. At the start of 1968, they were hoping could ward off the darkness as the Tigers of East High School. Their games were often broadcast on radio. This was definitely considered an uncommon occurrence at the time, especially for a high school basketball team. Come baseball season the crowds were said to have vanished. At the away baseball games, there would sometimes be only one fan in the bleachers rooting for the Tigers, and that was the coach’s wife. It was good that the boys actually didn’t mind playing their baseball games away just because the diamonds were better at the other schools than that if their own. The umpires who were white men raised in the natural flow of segregation would sometimes gawk at the black athletes in awe. At game’s end, the proud black boys never complained about the other schools, and all their updated fancy equipment. The boys quickly learned that they were in the center of these murderous and crazy times. At time that they didn’t have the comfort of escaping.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s presence hovers over that season. Rev. Phale Hale was the unofficial minister of the East High basketball and baseball teams. He had known King from his own Georgia days and was the first to bring the prophet of black America to Columbus. The gunning down of King in Memphis on April 4, 1968 led to the riot from Los Angeles to Columbus itself. Very shortly afterwards, like King, Kennedy also fell from the bullets of an assassin. Hale had counseled these East High athletes with King-like optimism. He had told them to hold on and that change was going to come, especially in these desperate times. Both King and his wife Coretta have been guests in Rev. Hale’s home. With King’s death, Hale was himself emotionally spent. This was a year of a series of unfortunate events. King and Kennedy had warned that black and white must come together.

The athletes at East High that year had their own narrative arc to create. They would brush away the fires of neighborhood pain, replacing it all with a far more glorious timepiece of being champions amidst the upheaval. It was through 1968 and 1969 that a season of glory took place in a nation’s history. It was right in the storefronts on Mount Vernon Avenue, that they began pinning those portraits of the Martin Luther King Jr. to the storefront windows. And not too long afterwards, they did the same with the basketball and baseball athletes from the neighborhood. And so it played out, the black kids from East High would be partaking in the state basketball championship game. These events gave people like Rev. Phale Hale a reason to smile. They gave Jack Gibbs a reason to smile. They gave their families and mothers something to be happy bout. These were the mothers who had feared for their boys. These were the same mothers who couldn’t get to the games because they were doing manual labor. The East High Tigers turned that all around for their community, some might even say for the nation as well.

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Black Athletes. (2022, Jun 10). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/black-athletes/

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