Race and Football in America
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143 pages

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As the first African American player to be drafted by the NFL and the first African American to play quarterback, George Taliaferro was a trailblazer whose athletic prowess earned him accolades throughout his football career. Instrumental in leading Indiana University to an undefeated season and undisputed Big Ten championship in 1945, Taliaferro was a star when many major universities had no black players on their rosters and others were stacking black players behind white starters. George Taliaferro would later rack up impressive statistics while playing professionally for the New York Yanks, Dallas Texans, Baltimore Colts, and Philadelphia Eagles. His athletic prowess did little to prevent him from facing segregation and discrimination on a daily basis, but his popularity as an athlete also gave him a platform. Playing professionally gave Taliaferro more opportunity to use football to fight oppression and to interact with other important trailblazers, like Joe Louis, Nat King Cole, Muhammad Ali, and Congressman John Lewis.

Race and Football in America tells Taliaferro's story and profiles the experiences of other athletes of color who were recognized for their athleticism yet oppressed for their skin color, as they fought (and continue to fight) for equal rights and opportunities. Together these stories provide an insightful portrait of race in America.

Foreword by Delise S. O'Meally

Foreword by Bob Kravitz

Foreword by Tony Dungy



1. October 2005: Trick or Treat

2. 1944-1945: Taliaferro's Football Roots

3. 1945-1946: Adjusting to Life at Indiana University

4. 1945-1946: Indiana University Football

5. 1946-1947: Army Days

6. 1947: A Volatile Time for Professional Football

7. 1947-1949: Back at Indiana University

8. 1949-1955: Integrating Professional Football

9. 1955-Present: Life After Football

10. 1949-Present: Integration of the NFL

11. 2016-Present: The New Trailblazers






Publié par
Date de parution 01 juillet 2019
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781684350674
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 5 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0025€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


This book is a publication of
Red Lightning Books
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2019 by Dawn Knight
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
ISBN 978-1-68435-095-7 (hdbk.)
ISBN 978-1-68435-066-7 (pbk.)
ISBN 978-1-68435-068-1 (web PDF)
1 2 3 4 5 24 23 22 21 20 19
To Jon, AJ, Taylor, and Mackenzie;
To Dad;
To George Taliaferro, may your legacy continue to inspire others; and To those willing to challenge the status quo to fight for social justice

Foreword by Delise S. O Meally
Foreword by Bob Kravitz
1. October 2005: Trick or Treat
2. 1944-45: Taliaferro s Football Roots
3. 1945-46: Adjusting to Life at Indiana University
4. 1945-46: Indiana University Football
5. 1946-47: Army Days
6. 1947: A Volatile Time for Professional Football
7. 1947-49: Back at Indiana University
8. 1949-55: Integrating Professional Football
9. 1955-Present: Life after Football
10. 1949-Present: Integration of the NFL
11. 2016-Present: The New Trailblazers
Epilogue: 2017-18
NELSON MANDELA ONCE SAID , Sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to unite people in a way that few other activities can. For those of us who have made sport our life s work, we know this to be true. We have seen sport unite communities after tragedies, natural disasters, wars; we have seen sport form unity among people with differing beliefs and values. We have seen sport bring hope in areas of society where hopelessness has taken root. The power of sport also can be seen through the impact and influence of athletes at all levels of the game. Throughout history, because of their enviable skills on the playing field, athletes have held positions of high regard in our culture. Some, like LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Roger Federer, transcend sport and achieve celebrity status, with a global ability to affect and influence. Others may have impact on a more local level, in high schools or colleges, youth groups or communities. Regardless of the sphere of influence, sport presents the opportunity to make a positive mark on society and change the world for the better.
Many athletes have stood in support of a cause-or in opposition to injustice and oppression-in iconic moments in history, from the raised fists of John Carlos and Tommie Smith to the bended knee of Colin Kaepernick; from Muhammad Ali s resistance to the Vietnam War and his fight for African American rights to Billie Jean King s fight for equal rights and opportunities for girls and boys. Athlete activists have spoken out privately and publicly; have lent their images, their celebrity, and their resources to a cause; have given voice to issues where those most directly affected have no voice; and have endured humiliation and vilification in order to pave the way for others. George Taliaferro is one of these heroes.
As author Dawn Knight so eloquently and movingly portrays, Taliaferro s life represents triumph through adversity and the courage to stand up for what was right when what was right was not popular. Years later as a professor at Indiana University, Taliaferro would write his favorite saying on the chalkboard in his classes: All sickness ain t death, a phrase that speaks to perseverance, determination, courage, and commitment during difficult times. George Taliaferro lived a life of perseverance, from his early years in Gary, Indiana, where segregation and oppression limited his educational and athletic opportunities: His determination while at Indiana University to be educated despite daily doses of racism and prejudice. His willingness to use his status as an athlete to integrate the Bloomington, Indiana, community in an effort to make life better for others. His courage and fortitude during his time in the armed forces, representing a nation that at times did not embrace him. His years in the NFL as one of only a few African American players. His enduring commitment over seven decades to fighting oppression and injustice.
At a time when America was black and white-or rather white and not white -George Taliaferro leveraged his platform as a great athlete and humanitarian to change hearts and minds. His influence in college sports, in the NFL, and in the very fabric of American life is still felt today. Regardless of whether you support the causes championed by today s athlete or agree with their methods of protest, the fact is that the Constitution guarantees all of us the right to speak and protest those injustices that affect our lives and the lives of others. The very freedom we fight for includes the freedom to speak out when change is needed. George Taliaferro s courage and perseverance (all sickness ain t death) paved the way for others to stand (or kneel) against oppression.
As I immersed myself in Taliaferro s story, I found the inevitable commonalities that we all can find if we take the time to learn more about each other. Our paths crossed in history when I first walked onto the campus of Morgan State University as a young tennis student athlete in the early 1990s-the same Baltimore, Maryland, campus for which Taliaferro served as dean of students and volunteer football coach more than twenty years before me. Legendary Morgan State Coach and Athletic Director Earl Banks retired just five years before I arrived on campus. Banks was the friend who broke the news to Taliaferro, in that Chicago restaurant in 1949, that he had been selected by the Chicago Bears as the first African American drafted into the NFL.
What George Taliaferro stood for more than seventy years ago, and continued to stand for throughout his youthful ninety-one years, is the idea that with celebrated status comes the responsibility to use your platform to bring attention to the social issues of our times. On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination in Memphis, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech entitled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. He led with this statement: A time comes when silence is betrayal. In recent times, athlete activism has increased at all levels of sport. While much attention has focused on NFL players, athletes, both male and female, in all major sports have been at the forefront of many of these issues. By taking a stand, by refusing to be silent in the face of criticism, a new generation continues to fulfill the legacy of George Taliaferro. All sickness ain t death.
Delise S. O Meally
Executive Director,
Institute for Sport and Social Justice
WHEN I ARRIVED ON THE Indiana University campus in 1978, I was a typical freshman whose only two goals were to cover Bob Knight and have as much fun as humanly possible-and not necessarily in that order.
By my sophomore year, though, I had learned that there was a whole lot more to IU than the basketball coach and Nick s English Hut. That s when I began covering IU basketball for the student newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student , and that s about the same time I started getting sideways with a certain legendary but crusty college basketball coach.
Enter George Taliaferro.
He didn t know me from Adam, but whenever I criticized Knight in print, he always went out of his way to send me a note or call me to tell me to stick by my guns, to always stand on principle. Quite honestly, I don t know to this day how he truly felt about Knight; I just knew that he seemed to appreciate the fact that I was a budding contrarian who took on one of the most powerful people, if not the most powerful person, on the campus.
Now that I m older and presumably a bit smarter, I can understand why George embraced the notion of taking on the established order. George wasn t just a great athlete who became the first black man ever to be drafted by the National Football League; he was also an agent of social change. In so many ways, he was far ahead of his time.
It s astonishing to me, as I read this book, that my parents used to take me out to the Gables for special dinners when I was a student at IU. This restaurant, like so many establishments throughout Bloomington, was segregated during George s time in school. He would not accept the status quo, though, and over time, he was central to desegregating several areas of the campus-the pool, dining establishments, and the list goes on.
I can t possibly recommend Dawn Knight s book enough. I wish it had been written back in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when I was still in school. I would have had a greater appreciation for what Mr. Taliaferro meant to the campus and to the history of college and professional football. Again, though, it s never too late to understand what a huge change agent Mr. Taliaferro was, or what a fine, principled man he was. I am supremely fortunate to have crossed paths with him many, many years ago and to feel as if he s part of my life to this day.
Bob Kravitz
Indianapolis sports personality
LIVES OF GREAT MEN ALL REMIND US / We can make our lives sublime, transcendentalist Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writes in the poem Psalm of Life. The poem continues, telling us that we, having been inspired, can inspire someone else, le

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