Reviews for Conspiracy of Silence : Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball
Choice Reviews 2012 August
Lamb (College of Charleston) has written an excellent examination of the role of the press in the history of the Negro Leagues--especially the role it played in pushing for integration. He reintroduces familiar figures--Sam Lacy, Wendell Smith, Lester Rodney--but also branches out. Lamb takes the reader through familiar territory with his discussion of Lacy and Smith, and those interested in Rodney may be familiar with Irwin Silber's Press Box Red (CH, Feb'04, 41-3500), which looks at Rodney and The Daily Worker. But he covers Billy Rowe (Pittsburgh Courier) and Bill Mardo (The Daily Worker) in greater detail than have others. Particularly interesting is his discussion of Heywood Broun, whose comment (in 1933) that there was no reason not to include African Americans in baseball met with a wide range of reactions, silence among them. The chapter on black editors adds critical material: Lamb points out the key role these individuals played by giving reporters room to cover baseball's struggles. Not all editors were willing to take on social issues. In sum, though it covers some familiar ground, this solidly researched study introduces new faces to the picture to broaden the context. The clear, bold writing makes the book a joy to read. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Professionals/Practitioners. L. A. Heaphy Kent State University Copyright 2012 American Library Association.
Kirkus Reviews 2012 February #2
The author of Blackout: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Spring Training (2004) returns with a comprehensive account of how journalists--black and white--covered the emerging story of the integration of Major League Baseball. Lamb (Media Studies/Coll. of Charleston) brings all his scholarly tools to the project--most notably, a fierce desire to locate every source, document every significant utterance by a baseball official, player, writer, editor and remain as disinterested as possible in a discussion of a time that reeked with racism and moral cowardice. Emerging as heroes are the black press and the American Communists, whose Daily Worker worked tirelessly to end baseball's apartheid. As Lamb notes, there had been black players in professional baseball in the late 19th century, but that soon ended. Owners drew a color line in the sand (there was no written proscription), then spent decades denying there was such a line, spewing out disingenuous excuses about the abilities of blacks, the fear of race riots and the problem of having black players train in the Jim Crow South. Consequently, black stars like Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and countless others labored in obscurity virtually their entire careers. Lamb begins in 1933 at baseball's winter meetings--and with the minstrel show that was part of their entertainment. Near the end is an account of another owners' meeting in 1946--after the signing of Jackie Robinson--and again the entertainment included racist skits. The author's narrative includes numerous bad guys: owners Clark Griffith, Tom Yawkey and Larry MacPhail, and a laundry list of white journalists, most ignoble of whom was Alfred Henry Spink, who, via his Sporting News, lobbied hard against integration--then picked Robinson as the Rookie of the Year. Although the paragraphs are sometimes thick with detail, the author has documented a story of immense cultural importance. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Express Reviews
The story of Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color line in Major League Baseball is well known, but few realize that African Americans played in the major leagues before Robinson-he was the first in the 20th century-and that the campaign once again to integrate the nation's pastime racially had gone on for decades prior to Robinson's 1947 debut as a Brooklyn Dodger. Lamb (media studies, Coll. of Charleston; Blackout: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Spring Training) fills in the blanks in the standard historical account. The book's real value is Lamb's research into how the press played a major role in maintaining the status quo by not challenging baseball's color line. The mainstream press largely ignored Negro League baseball and perpetuated the lie that black players would be warmly accepted into the majors if they only had the talent to compete. Verdict Lamb's writing is often bogged down by repetition, but the book is a valuable resource for students of baseball history and for readers concerned with the history of race relations and the media in this country.-Robert Bruce Slater, Stroudsburg, PA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.