Cover for Ariail: Passing the Baton: Black Women Track Stars and American Identity. Click for larger image
Ebook Information

Passing the Baton

Black Women Track Stars and American Identity

How African American women athletes tested a nation's image of itself

After World War II, the United States used international sport to promote democratic values and its image of an ideal citizen. But African American women excelling in track and field upset such notions. Cat M. Ariail examines how athletes such as Alice Coachman, Mae Faggs, and Wilma Rudolph forced American sport cultures—both white and Black—to reckon with the athleticism of African American women. Marginalized still further in a low-profile sport, young Black women nonetheless bypassed barriers to represent their country. Their athletic success soon threatened postwar America's dominant ideas about race, gender, sexuality, and national identity. As Ariail shows, the wider culture defused these radical challenges by locking the athletes within roles that stressed conservative forms of femininity, blackness, and citizenship.

A rare exploration of African American women athletes and national identity, Passing the Baton reveals young Black women as active agents in the remaking of what it means to be American.

"A worthwhile addition to public-library collections on Black American sports, Olympic history, and gender studies." --Booklist

"Ariail pinpoints how important the women of track and field were to changing opinions in both white and black communities about the accomplishments of women of color. But she also powerfully argues that this story does not end with victory. Rather, she reminds us how much work gender did (and does) to undergird racism."--Katherine C. Mooney, author of Race Horse Men: How Slavery and Freedom Were Made at the Racetrack

Cat M. Ariail is a lecturer in the Department of History at Middle Tennessee State University.

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