College of Education and Human Development
Celebrating Black History in Sports
February 12, 2016
Growing up during the Civil Rights Era and during a period when studying African American history and culture was in vogue, Dr. Wiggins' first book dealing exclusively with African American athletes was published in 1997 and titled Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White America. The book includes 11 chapters on topics ranging from the response of the black press to the 1936 Olympic games and Muhammad Ali's connection to the Black Muslims to the role of African American athletes in predominantly white college sport and the debate over supposed black athletic superiority. He followed this up with The Unlevel Playing Field: A Documentary History of the African American Experience in Sport (2003), Sport and the Color Line: Black Athletes and Race-Relations in Twentieth- Century America (2004), and Out of the Shadows: A Biographical History of American Athletes(2006). The first of these three aforementioned books brought forth much praise from sport studies scholars for its use of primary documents to assess the role of African American athletes in sport from the colonial period to the present day.
Two of his most recent publications are the essays, "Black Athletes in White Men's Games: Race, Sport, and American National Pastimes," The International Journal of the History of Sport (2014) and "Symbols of Possibility: Arthur Ashe, Black Athletes, and the Writing of a Hard Road to Glory," The Journal of African American History (2014). Dr. Wiggins has frequently been recognized for his scholarship on the African American athlete, being a three time recipient, for example, of the Research Writing Award from The Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport for his essays "Edwin Bancroft Henderson: Physical Educator, Civil Rights Activist, and Chronicler of African American Athletes" (1999), "From Plantation to Playing Field: Historical Writings on the Black Athlete in American Sport" (1986), and "The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin: The Response of America's Black Press," (1983).
Dr. Wiggins has several books currently in press, including Separate Games: African American Sports Behind the Walls of Segregation, which will be published in the fall of this year. It is devoted to the parallel sports teams, events, and organizations that were established during the inter-war period when racial discrimination prevented many African Americans from participating in White organized sport at virtually every level of competition. Dr. Wiggins, in addition to being editor of the series Sport, Culture and Society for The University of Arkansas Press, serves as a consultant for the Smithsonian's new Museum of African American History and Culture, and was honored by being asked to speak in 2012 on the African American experience in predominantly white college sport as part of George Mason's Vision Series.