Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Book excerpt: Chapter Three -- Chilly Racial Climate
There weren’t any racial tensions on Marshall’s football team in 1969. Blacks and whites got along just fine. But away from the games, practices, team meetings, and study hall, it was a much different scenario.
At best, socializing among the black and white players was minimal. You wouldn’t see any black players going to any parties hosted by the white fraternities and white sororities. Likewise, you’d never see any white guys showing up at a hotel or house party thrown by black folks. And it didn’t matter if the party’s location was near campus or in the heart of the hood. That’s just the way it was. Blacks and whites seemed to be comfortable with that. Nobody felt the need to come out of their cultural comfort zone. Of course there were a few blacks and whites who intermingled frequently, but it wasn’t commonplace. After all, this was Huntington, not Greenwich Village.
The late ‘60s marked the arrival of the first wave of black athletes coming to Marshall, which before then, didn’t have many black students. The school started to recruit more blacks for football and basketball.
At the same time, there was another movement taking place, not only at Marshall, but also at other colleges around the South. Up until then, it was standard procedure for black folks to enroll at historically black institutions. But even that was starting to change as a greater number of blacks who were not athletes opted to attend predominantly white schools. This trend was set in motion, in large part, by the desegregation of the public school systems at every grade level in the Deep South. With more blacks attending mainstream schools, there was bound to be some uneasiness among the races. There were a lot of whites who had never been around black people before, and vice versa. So it was inevitable that, at some point, there would be incidents that would spark racial unrest.