The Culture of Sports in the Harlem Renaissance

During the African American cultural resurgence of the 1920s and 1930s, professional athletes shared the spotlight with artists and intellectuals.

The Culture of Sports in the Harlem Renaissance

"Despite the many library shelves filled with books about the Harlem Renaissance and its leaders and participants, sports and what was written about sports is largely absent. This book offers a more complete understanding of African American history and, therefore, of American history by looking at how sports were and were not written about."--Brian Carroll, author of The Black Press and Black Baseball, 1915-1955. During the African American cultural resurgence of the 1920s and 1930s, professional athletes shared the spotlight with artists and intellectuals. Negro League baseball teams played in New York City's major-league stadiums and basketball clubs shared the bill with jazz bands at late night casinos. Yet sports remain conspicuously absent from much of the literature on the popular culture of the Harlem Renaissance. Although the black intelligentsia largely dismissed the popularity of sports, the press celebrated athletics as a means to participate in the debates of the day. A few prominent writers, such as Claude McKay and James Weldon Johnson, used sports in distinctive ways to communicate their vision of the Renaissance. Meanwhile, the writers of the Harlem press promoted sports with community consciousness, insightful analysis and a playful love of language, and argued for their importance in the fight for racial equality.

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