Benching Jim Crow

The Rise and Fall of the Color Line in Southern College Sports, 1890-1980
Author: Charles H. Martin
A benchmark study of racial exclusion in college athletics
Paper – $32
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/01/2010
Cloth: 01/01/2010
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About the Book

Chronicling the uneven rise and slow decline of segregation in American college athletics, Charles H. Martin shows how southern colleges imposed their policies of racial exclusion on surprisingly compliant northern teams and explains the social forces that eventually forced these southern schools to accept integrated competition. Martin emphasizes not just the racism prevalent in football and basketball in the South, but the effects of this discrimination for colleges and universities all over the country. Southern teams such as the University of Alabama, University of Mississippi, and the University of North Carolina were obsessed with national recognition, but their Jim Crow policies prevented them for many years from playing against racially mixed teams from other parts of the country.

Devoting special attention to the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, and teams in Texas, Martin explores the changing social attitudes and culture of competition that turned the tide and allowed for the recruitment of black players and hiring of black coaches. He takes a close look at the case of Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso), the first major white university in an ex-Confederate state to recruit African American athletes extensively. Martin skillfully weaves existing arguments and documentation on the integration of college sports with wide-ranging, original research, including previously unpublished papers and correspondence of college administrators and athletic directors.

About the Author

Charles H. Martin is an associate professor of history at the University of Texas at El Paso and the author of The Angelo Herndon Case and Southern Justice.


"Benching Jim Crow is a powerful indictment of a racist system, much of which has been dismantled by law, social pressure, and the belated recognition by southern coaches and athletic directors that recruiting white athletes exclusively would doom their universities to teams that might aspire to mediocrity on their most optimistic days."--Bill Littlefield, Only a Game

"[Martin] provides moving descriptions of individual athletes who braved open hostility and threats of violence and of the coaches who insisted that the teams be integrated. And he is masterful in weaving all this material into the broader social history of the South. The result is an impressive, profound piece of scholarship. Essential."--Choice

"Martin has written this valuable history -- the first of its kind -- documenting the process of integrating the playing fields of Southern universities and colleges. It's an important book."--El Paso Times

"A definitive piece of scholarship."--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Should be a standard text in sport history classes for many years."--Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"An impressive achievement, one of the most useful titles recently published on the history of race and sport."--The Journal of American History

"Martin packs his narrative with startling examples that show racism and exclusion as all-American characteristics that just so happened to have deep roots in the South."--The Journal of Southern History

"A well written historical analysis of the development of sport institutions at all-white colleges and universities in the South. . . . Thought provoking, and accessible."--The Journal of African American History

"Benching Jim Crow is a major contribution to the history of collegiate athletics and the history of sport."--Louisiana History


"Given the perennial pertinence of racial issues in the United States, the attachment to intercollegiate athletics in the South, and the presence of African-American athletes, this subject begs for attention. Charles H. Martin is well-versed in college sports and academic archives, and the scope and depth of his research is astounding."--William J. Baker, author of Jesse Owens: An American Life

"Historians, sports scholars, and students will refer to Benching Jim Crow for many years to come as the standard source on the integration of intercollegiate sport."--Mark S. Dyreson, author of Making the American Team: Sport, Culture, and the Olympic Experience and Crafting Patriotism: America at the Olympic Games


A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2012.