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Race, Basketball, and the American Dream

Matt Andrews, Associate Professor, Department of History
Tuesday, September 26th, 6 – 7:30PM – Registration strongly encouraged.

Basketball is not just a game—it is part of the larger story of civil rights and racial politics in the United States. Two arms, one African American and one white, reach up towards an orange basketball during a tip-off.From YMCA and AAU ball to the college and pro game, for the last 132 years, Americans have used basketball as a means for integration, assimilation, economic mobility, resistance, and political protest. In this session we will examine the links between basketball and racial politics, with a particular focus on how the basketball court has served as a site of “race making”—that is, we will explore how the game has influenced (and, still influences) ideas about “Blackness” and “Whiteness” in American society.

This lecture will be delivered in the form of a list – sports fans love lists! I will give you my “all-time starting five” in basketball—the five players who make up a team that best evince the dynamic relationship between race and basketball. Who are the five players whose basketball careers reveal the most about race and American history? When finished, the presenter will invite questions, comments, and suggestions for different players the audience thinks should be on the list. If we know one thing about sports lists—no one ever agrees!

Matthew Andrews is a Teaching Professor in the Department of History at UNC-Chapel Hill. He teaches courses on the intersection of sport and politics, with a particular interest in the use of sport arenas as spaces to both bolster and protest political order. He was a UNC Center for Faculty Excellence Teaching Fellow for the 2019-2021 academic years. In 2016, 2018, and 2019, the Daily Tar Heel named him UNC’s “Best Professor.”