Conspiracy of Silence


Conspiracy of Silence

Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball

Chris Lamb

416 pages


October 2021


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

October 2021


$34.95 Add to Cart

April 2012


$44.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

April 2012


$34.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Named a top 50 baseball book of all time by the Huffington Post
Named 2013 Best Book on Journalism and Mass Communication History by the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
Named a top book for 2012 by Choice

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

Author Bio

Chris Lamb is chair of the Department of Journalism and Public Relations at Indiana University–Indianapolis. He is the editor, author, or coauthor of eleven books, including Sports Journalism: A History of Glory, Fame, and Technology (Nebraska, 2020), From Jack Johnson to LeBron James: Sports, Media, and the Color Line (Nebraska, 2016), and Blackout: The Untold Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Spring Training (Nebraska, 2004).



“Everyone—casual fans, journalists, and even the most knowledgeable baseball expert—will find something of interest in this significant contribution to our understanding of civil rights and baseball.”—John Paul Hill, NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Cultures

"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 represents a significant contribution to the study of baseball, race, and the press."—Trey Strecker, Journal of Sport History

"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

"This is important, overdue work."—Gene Sapakoff, Post and Courier

"Everyone—casual fans, journalists, and even the most knowledgeable baseball expert—will find something of interest in this significant contribution to our understanding of civil rights and baseball."—John Paul Hill, NINE

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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