Showdown by Thomas G. Smith
JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins

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Synopsis

In 1961—as America crackled with racial tension—the Washington Redskins stood alone as the only professional football team without a black player on its roster. In fact, during the entire twenty-five-year history of the franchise, no African American had ever played for George Preston Marshall, the Redskins’ cantankerous principal owner. With slicked-down white hair and angular facial features, the nattily attired, sixty-four-year-old NFL team owner already had a well-deserved reputation for flamboyance, showmanship, and erratic behavior. And like other Southern-born segregationists, Marshall stood firm against race-mixing. “We’ll start signing Negroes,” he once boasted, “when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.” But that was about to change.
 
Opposing Marshall was Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, whose determination that the Redskins—or “Paleskins,” as he called them—reflect John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier ideals led to one of the most high-profile contests to spill beyond the sports pages. Realizing that racial justice and gridiron success had the potential either to dovetail or take an ugly turn, civil rights advocates and sports fans alike anxiously turned their eyes toward the nation’s capital. There was always the possibility that Marshall—one of the NFL’s most influential and dominating founding fathers—might defy demands from the Kennedy administration to desegregate his lily-white team. When further pressured to desegregate by the press, Marshall remained defiant, declaring that no one, including the White House, could tell him how to run his business.
 
In Showdown, sports historian Thomas G. Smith captures this striking moment, one that held sweeping implications not only for one team’s racist policy but also for a sharply segregated city and for the nation as a whole. Part sports history, part civil rights story, this compelling and untold narrative serves as a powerful lens onto racism in sport, illustrating how, in microcosm, the fight to desegregate the Redskins was part of a wider struggle against racial injustice in America.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Thomas G. Smith

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Thomas G. Smith is a member of the history program at Nichols College, where he serves as the Robert Stansky Distinguished Professor. A sports and environmental historian, he is the author of two books, Independent: A Biography of Lewis Douglas (with Bob Browder) and Green Republican: John Saylor and the Preservation of America's Wilderness. He lives in Dudley, Massachusetts, and is a fervent fan of the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Dodgers.
 
Published September 6, 2011 by Beacon Press. 256 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Sports & Outdoors. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Smith notes that a few blacks played in the NFL in the ’30s, but—principally due to the influence of Marshall, he avers—the league soon became all-white and stayed that way for more than a decade, when Paul Brown’s eponymous team broke the mold and soared to glory with Marion Motley and Otto Graham.

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BC Books

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The strangest part of this episode goes to Dean, having a hallucinatory daydream where he’s the hero in a fantasy story.

Jun 01 2008 | Read Full Review of Showdown: JFK and the Integra...

BC Books

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To save Dr. Girlfriend from the clutches of Phantom Limb, Brock Samson and the Venture family join forces with Monarch and his henchmen to take on Phantom Limb and his grand army.

Jun 01 2008 | Read Full Review of Showdown: JFK and the Integra...

Washington Independent Review of Books

“Every writer I’ve ever read, living or dead, has in one way or another helped and inspired,” Ali Smith said in a recent interview with The Daily Beast.

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Las Vegas Review Journal

George Lopez says Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has asked him to appear at a fundraiser, though the sheriff is upset with Lopez and has dared him to a face-to-face confrontation.

Aug 21 2012 | Read Full Review of Showdown: JFK and the Integra...

Las Vegas Review Journal

He has often worked comedy clubs, and says he learned from the best - King and Nick Lewin (who just moved back to town) - that if the magic props won't fit in one suitcase, there is too much magic.

Feb 14 2013 | Read Full Review of Showdown: JFK and the Integra...

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