Serena Willams holding a tennis racket

The Black Athlete

A Fall 2020 First-Year Tutorial

Serena Williams, Aegon International Tennis, Eastbourne 2011 (cropped). Photo by Andrew Campbell. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

The Black Athlete: Changing 20th- and 21st-Century Society?

A First-Year Tutorial offered fall 2020, taught by Andrew Hamilton ’85, associate professor of physical education

During the 20th and into the early part of the 21st century, the growth of sport in American society created many opportunities for athletes to participate.

Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson. Photo by Bob Sandberg.

In the early 1900s, the group of professional athletes was racially comprised of whites. Over time however, as barriers for Black athletes were broken down, more Black athletes slowly gained access to different sports. At the same time American society underwent significant change which allowed for Black people to access civil rights which typically were only afforded white people. In this tutorial, students will explore the question of whether participation by Black athletes helped fuel 20th- and 21st-century societal change or whether societal change occurred first, thereby allowing access to sport for the Black athlete. Students will be asked to employ concepts from the disciplines of sociology and history during coursework.


Why I Offered This Tutorial

This tutorial is one which I have taught two other times, but the iteration this year seems to have special meaning. During the spring and summer of 2020, the nation witnessed protests due to police brutality of African Americans. As a result of the protests, athletes and athletic organizations used both boycott of sport and participation in sport as avenues to speak out against the atrocities. In most cases, statements and racial campaigns connected to sport were led by African Americans. The course allowed our students to make social and historical connections about society of the past century and the events of 2020.

– Andrew Hamilton

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