Sports touch our lives unlike almost anything else. Apart from perhaps music, nothing reaches all segments of society simultaneously to the degree that sports do. Both the custodial staff and the board of directors of America’s top companies stop their lives to watch the same Super Bowl. Countries at war order cease-fires during international sports competitions so that their nations can devote complete attention to sports. In 2006, for example, the civil war that had been waged in the Ivory Coast for four years took a hiatus as both sides of the conflict paused to celebrate and support the nation’s national soccer team in World Cup play. The widespread penetration of sports into our lives, regardless of our station, makes sports a unique tool to examine people’s racial, economic, political, and social interactions.

In this course, we will look at the role that sports have played in African Americans ’quest for freedom, equality, and full recognition as human beings in America. We will examine the notion that African Americans ’success on fields of play translates into success in the larger American society. Perhaps most importantly, we will also examine the role race plays in sports and the relationship between capital and labor within the $71 billion American sports industry.