Conspiracy of Silence


Conspiracy of Silence

Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball

Chris Lamb

416 pages


April 2012


$44.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

April 2012


$44.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

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 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 well 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. He shows how white mainstream sportswriters perpetuated the color line by participating in what their black counterparts called a “conspiracy of silence.” 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. The efforts of the alternative presses to end baseball’s color line, chronicled for the first time in Conspiracy of Silence, constitute one of baseball’s—and the civil rights movement’s—great untold stories.

Author Bio

Chris Lamb, a professor of journalism at the Indiana University School of Journalism, Indianapolis, is the author of Blackout: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Spring Training, available in a Bison Books edition.


"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

"Conspiracy of Silence offers overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of the black press in advancing integration in this country."—Dorothy Seymour Mills, New York Journal

"Lamb's thorough journalistic exposé chronicles the drama and history behind the game, while tracing how the desegregation of baseball parallels the story of the civil rights movement in the United States."—Kathleen Gerard, Shelf Awareness

"Lamb's research shows the struggle that took place in the media had a lot to do with the tug-o-war of ideals and practicality of all the issues involved in the decision. It's as good a book on the subject as we've ever come across."—Tom Hoffarth, Farther Off The Wall

"Though it covers some familiar ground, this solidly researched study introduces new faces to the picture to broaden the context. The clear, bold writing makes the book a joy to read."—L. A. Heaphy, Choice

Table of Contents


Part 1
1.  White Sportswriters and Minstrel Shows

Part 2
2. The Color Line Is Drawn       
3.  Invisible Men
4. “Agitators” and “Social-Minded Drum Beaters”
(written with Kelly Rusinack) 

Part 3
5. “L’affaire Jake Powell”
6.  Major League Managers and Ballplayers Call for End of Color Line     

Part 4
7.  The Double V Campaign   
8.  “The Great White Father” Speaks
9.  Black Editors Make Their Case for Desegregation 
10. “Get Those Niggers Off the Field”   

Part 5
11.  Robinson Becomes the Chosen One

Part 6
12.  “I Never Want to Take Another Trip Like This One”


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