Sport & The Talented Tenth
W.E.B. DuBois called for a Negro elite, the "talented tenth" of the African American population to become the leaders of the race. This is the story of a portion of that intelligentsia, true Renaissance men whose talents extended beyond scholarship to the fields of sport and athletic competition. They were scholar-athletes who found themselves immersed in a virtually all-white privileged and patrician world of classical studies and old world attitudes. For the most part, they achieved far beyond the expectations of a prejudiced world. They became champions, All-Americans and Olympians; later, doctors, lawyers, teachers, clergy, businessmen and political leaders. DuBois was seeking such men, although he did not likely consider athletic participation as a part of the equation. Today we recognize the contributions made by such athletes as Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali to the ascension of the African American. The men in these pages, epitomized by the likes of William Henry Lewis, Fritz Pollard and Paul Robeson, helped pave the way for those great athletes, at the same time demonstrating that the scholar athlete came from diverse social, economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds.
Sport and the Talented Tenth is the first book to focus entirely on early African American athletes in predominantly white colleges and universities. Bob Wells has discovered 145 black men who, between 1879 and 1920, performed in athletics at 39 colleges in the New England states, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Their athletic experiences included involvement in 13 sports and are detailed game-by-game, meet-by-meet.
Attention is paid to the problems they faced - the prejudice, discrimination and outright racism of classmates, teammates, opposing athletes, and the unwritten social policies of opposing administrations. An examination of their family backgrounds, athletic achievements, wartime service and post -graduate careers is discussed in a concluding synthesis.
About the Author:
Bob Wells is emeritus professor of physical education at Frostburg State University in Maryland, where he taught for 30 years. An alumnus of the University of Rhode Island, he earned his graduate degrees at Fitchburg State College and Indiana University. Additional work at the University of Maryland in the areas of sport history and sociology led to a 25-year study of African American athletes, the development of undergraduate/ graduate coursework in the subject at Frostburg State and research which culminated in this book. A highly-successful baseball coach at Frostburg, his childhood admiration of Jackie Robinson was the probable genesis of his interest in African American athletics. He is a member of the athletic Hall of Fame at URI and at FSU, where baseball games are played on Bob Wells Field. Now retired, he makes his home in his native Rhode Island, near the campus of his almamater. His summers are spent hiking the mountains of northern New England and New York.