Conspiracy of Silence
Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball
The campaign to desegregate baseball was one of the most important civil rights stories of the 1930s and 1940s. But most of white America knew nothing about this story because mainstream newspapers said little about the color line and still less about the efforts to end it. Even today, as far as most Americans know, the integration of baseball revolved around Branch Rickey's signing of Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers' organization in 1945. This book shows how Rickey's move, critical as it may have been, came after more than a decade of work by Black and left-leaning journalists to desegregate the game. Drawing on hundreds of newspaper articles and interviews with journalists, Chris Lamb reveals how differently Black and white newspapers, and Black and white America, viewed racial equality. Between 1933 and 1945, Black newspapers and the communist Daily Worker published hundreds of articles and editorials calling for an end to baseball's color line, while white mainstream sportswriters perpetuated the color line by participating in what their Black counterparts called a "conspiracy of silence." The alternative presses' efforts to end baseball's color line, chronicled for the first time in Conspiracy of Silence, constitute one of the great untold stories of baseball and the civil rights movement.
Chris Lamb is chair of the Department of Journalism and Public Relations at Indiana University?Indianapolis. He is the editor, author, or coauthor of eleven books, including Sports Journalism: A History of Glory, Fame, and Technology (Nebraska, 2020), From Jack Johnson to LeBron James: Sports, Media, and the Color Line (Nebraska, 2016), and Blackout: The Untold Story of Jackie Robinson's First Spring Training (Nebraska, 2004). ?
"Everyone?casual fans, journalists, and even the most knowledgeable baseball expert?will find something of interest in this significant contribution to our understanding of civil rights and baseball."?John Paul Hill, NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Cultures ?
"Lamb . . . brings all his scholarly tools to the project. . . . The author has documented a story of immense cultural importance."?Kirkus Starred Review
"[Conspiracy of Silence] 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, Library Journal