cover of book

The Unlevel Playing Field: A Documentary History of the African American Experience in Sport
by David K. Wiggins and Patrick B. Miller
University of Illinois Press, 2003
Paper: 978-0-252-07272-7 | Cloth: 978-0-252-02820-5
Library of Congress Classification GV706.32.U65 2003
Dewey Decimal Classification 796.08996073


The Unlevel Playing Field offers a rich compendium of more than 100 primary sources that chart the intertwining history of African Americans and sport. Introductions and head-notes provided by David K. Wiggins and Patrick B. Miller place each document in context, shaping an unrivaled narrative. 

Readers will find dozens of accounts by Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, James Weldon Johnson, Richard Wright, A. S. “Doc” Young, Eldredge Cleaver, Nikki Giovanni, John Edgar Wideman, bell hooks, James Baldwin, Roy Wilkins, Henry Louis Gates, Gerald Early, and many others. 

The documents range from discussions of the color line in organized baseball during the Jim Crow era and portraits of turn-of-the-century figures like the champion sprint cyclist Marshall “Major” Taylor and boxer Jack Johnson. Writers also look at modern-day issues like the participation of black athletes in the 1968 Olympics, the place of African American women in sport, and examine pioneering figures like Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Althea Gibson, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Venus and Serena Williams.

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