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Strangers to Ourselves
Hear My Sad Story
Anne Bancroft
Discovering Texas History
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The Rise and Fall of the Voting Rights Act
Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures
The Agrarian Vision
Al Capone and His American Boys

Separate GamesSeparate Games

African American Sport behind the Walls of Segregation

Edited by David K. Wiggins and Ryan Swanson

Winner of the 2017 NASSH Book Award for best edited collection

Narrated by David Sadzin

Available from Audible

Book published by The University of Arkansas Press

The hardening of racial lines during the first half of the twentieth century eliminated almost all African Americans from white organized sports, forcing black athletes to form their own teams, organizations, and events. This separate sporting culture, explored in the twelve essays included here, comprised much more than athletic competition; these “separate games” provided examples of black enterprise and black self-help and showed the importance of agency and the quest for racial uplift in a country fraught with racialist thinking and discrimination.

The significance of this sporting culture is vividly showcased in the stories of the Cuban Giants baseball team, basketball’s New York Renaissance Five, the Tennessee State Tigerbelles track-and-field team, black college football’s Turkey Bowl Classic, car racing’s Gold and Glory Sweepstakes, Negro League Baseball’s East-West All-Star game, and many more. These teams, organizations, and events made up a vibrant national sporting complex that remained in existence until the integration of sports beginning in the late 1940s. Separate Games explores the fascinating ways sports helped bind the black community and illuminate race pride, business acumen, and organizational abilities.

David K. Wiggins is a professor in the School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism and codirector of the Center for the Study of Sport and Leisure in Society at George Mason University. He is the author or editor of many books on sport, race, and American culture.

Ryan Swanson is assistant professor of history in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of When Baseball Went White: Reconstruction, Reconciliation, and Dreams of a National Pastime.


“Wiggins (George Mason Univ.) and Swanson (Univ. of New Mexico) have edited a 12-essay volume, written by recognized experts, about the segregated era in African American sports. The sections “Teams” and “Events” are probably too detailed, but the section on segregated black organizations is quite illuminating. The book argues that “separate games” were more than athletic competition, exemplifying black entrepreneurship and agency in a divided racist society. Black sportsmen and entrepreneurs tried to demonstrate to largely disinterested white sportsmen their athletes’ high skill levels. Separate sports programs, such as the Negro baseball leagues and historically black college and university conferences paralleled the organized white sports world, exemplifying “black self-help and organizational skills while at once engendering a sense of racial and community pride.”


“This collection gives intriguing glimpses into the ways that African Americans worked, lived, played, and competed in a segregated America. Although some require a more careful reading than others, these essays prove that African American sport represented more than just contests on football fields, baseball diamonds, golf links. bowling alleys, and racetracks. These athletes showcased their skill and determination across the country in nontraditional civil rights arenas freighted with social, cultural, political, and economic meaning.”

The Journal of Southern History

“Edited by David K. Wiggins—a widely read, senior scholar at George Mason University and former editor of the Journal of Sport History—and Ryan A. Swanson—an assistant professor of history at the University of New Mexico—the book successfully argues that ‘sport history will always be incomplete if academicians only study African American athletes in relation to their white counterparts and in the context of integration rather than segregation’. It is a fine addition to the fields of sport history and African American history. … The eclectic group of contributors enriches Separate Games and makes it particularly intriguing and useful. … Separate Games should resonate with students, too, making it an excellent reader for courses exploring the history of sport or racial segregation.”

The Journal of American History

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University Press Audiobooks