Emory Libraries kicks off Race and Sports culture series with sports authors, former players

Published 08-16-2013

Emory Libraries will kick off its 2013-2014 “Race and Sports in American Culture Series” (RASACS) on Sept. 6 and 7, the first segment in a lineup of events inspired by the African Americans in Sports collection in its Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL).

Pellom McDaniels III, MARBL faculty curator of African-American Collections and assistant professor of African American Studies at Emory University, and Dana White, Emory emeritus professor of American Studies and MARBL senior faculty curator, jointly organized the series of lectures, a film screening and panel presentation, and public exhibition under the RASACS banner.

The purpose of RASACS is threefold: 1) to elevate the conversation around race and sports in American culture by creating opportunities for interdisciplinary engagement; 2) to provide a space for the advancement of new scholarship related to race and sports in American culture; and 3) to encourage research in the area of race and sports on the Emory University campus to coincide with the development of MARBL’s African Americans in Sports Collection, part of its larger collecting initiative around African American history and culture. In addition, RASACS will produce exhibitions, public programs, and an annual publication to support the research of graduate students, faculty and emerging scholars in the field.

“This year’s series has a full roster of presenters who deal with race and sports in American culture in very diverse ways,” McDaniels says. “We have attempted to incorporate every unit from across the Emory campus – the college, business school, law school, medical school, and programs such as the Center for Ethics.”

The series will continue throughout the 2013-14 academic year. The theme for the series this year is professional football, with events planned around significant NFL dates in September (season opener), February (Super Bowl weekend) and April (ahead of the NFL draft in May). Organizers plan to have the annual series revolve around a different theme each year, such as Latin America and sports, Title IX, and the ethics of intercollegiate athletics.

The series is a follow-up to Emory Libraries’ first symposium on race and sports in American culture held in 2011, the year the African Americans in Sports collection was established in MARBL.

“By bringing in people like Willie Lanier, we begin to deal directly with the stereotypes of the athlete, particularly the football player as the dumb athlete,” White says. “We want the former athletes talking on their own behalf. Usually it’s a scholar talking about the athlete or film representations, but to get people who were actually there at ground level, I think that’s a main focus for us.”

The symposium agenda is as follows:

Friday, Sept. 6
6-8 pm in the Jones Room, Woodruff Library
Keynote address with William C. Rhoden, New York Times sports journalist and author of several books, including “Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete.” He is expected to speak about the role of sports for African Americans in a changing global society. The address will be followed by a Q-and-A session, book signing and light refreshments.

Saturday, Sept. 7
10 am in White Hall, 301 Dowman Dr. on the Emory campus
Film: “The Ghosts of Ole Miss” followed by discussion. The ESPN documentary is about the integration of the University of Mississippi with the attendance of James Meredith – which became one of the most shamefully violent incidents during the civil rights movement – at the same time the school’s football team was bringing pride to the campus with an undefeated season.

1-3 pm in the Jones Room, Woodruff Library


Panel: “The Evolution of the Game: How the 1970 Merger of the NFL and AFL Changed America.” White says the merger “made a big difference in the racial balance within pro football. The AFL had recruited great black players before the NFL did.” Panelists are:

  • Willie Lanier, NFL Hall of Fame (class of 1986) and the first African American middle linebacker in the NFL (Kansas City Chiefs).
  • Michael MacCambridge, adjunct professor at Washington University in St. Louis, biographer of Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt and author of “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation.”

Other dates in the series, subject to change, are as follows. More details will be announced on the Emory Libraries website closer to the scheduled events.

  • Wednesday, Nov. 13, 6-8 pm in the Jones Room: Opening and preview of the traveling exhibit “Joe Louis Barrow: A Life and Career in Context,” focusing on boxer Joe Louis, whom White says was the first well-known African American athlete. The display will consist of approximately 12 panels featuring text and images of Louis, highlighting his childhood, his family’s move to Detroit, turning professional, his key fights, and his years in the Army. Most of the images are drawn from various African American collections in MARBL. The opening is expected to include display cases of photos, fight programs and other materials, as well as film clips of his significant boxing matches such as the 1935 fight against Max Baer, his 1936 and 1938 bouts with Max Schmeling, and his 1946 match against Billy Conn.
  • Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 (coinciding with Super Bowl weekend): Lecture: “The Great Sports Spectacle: Marketing the Super Bowl,” by Kenneth Shropshire, author and professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School of Business. This event is a planned collaboration with Emory’s Goizueta Business School.
  • (postponed) Wednesday, April 9, 2014: Lecture: “Dying to Compete: Sports, Commerce, and the Future of Brain Injury Research,” by neuroscientist Don Stein of Emory University School of Medicine. Stein is a leading brain injury researcher who has spent the last few years studying the effects of progesterone on traumatic brain injury, with positive results.

The Robert W. Woodruff Library is located at 540 Asbury Circle in Atlanta, 30322. Parking is available in the Fishburne deck.

The symposium is sponsored in part by the Laney Graduate School through the New Thinkers/New Leaders Fund. For more information about the symposium, contact Pellom McDaniels at pmcdani@emory.edu or Dana White at dwhit02@emory.edu.

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