Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

November 10, 1956

Guest post by Bailey Duplessie, undergraduate student at University of Richmond.

In an article published by the Norfolk Journal and Guide​ on November 10, 1956, the race controversy over a game between the Army and Tulane is addressed. In the article, “Army Asked Not to Play in Louisiana,” you see the plea of Roy Wilkins, the executive secretary for the National Association of Colored People (NAACP), requesting to Wilber M. Brucker, the secretary of the Army, to withdraw from the game. Wilkins believes that there are many reasons why the Army should not go, following the Navy’s lead, including that the “Army appearance would be conspicuous endorsement of racial segregation. Because armed services policy of no segregation would be violated.” The Army’s coach had a much different opinion and believed it was not a problem because the Army team had no black football players.

Coach Earl Blaik’s opinion was what brought so much intrigue to this article. Blaik had previously been a football coach at Dartmouth and had come into the Army to coach. Blaik had a drive to make them a winning team. What was seen in the article was that Blaik was more concerned with playing the game and avoiding the issue of segregation than he was with the Army’s no segregation policy. Just because the team was white, according to Blaik, there would be no problem, the “Army has no Negro players on its team and therefore can proceed.” Blaik attempts to disengage from the implications of racial segregation. Blaik was possibly more concerned with winning.

I knew that it would be important to understand the significance of the game played at Tulane, a school that remained segregated until 1963. While researching I learned that not only had Tulane been segregated but that it was a struggle for years to get the university to desegregate. It was not until 1963, after lawsuits, that Tulane decided to admit black students. Because of how long it took the majority of the area to become desegregated it is not much of a surprise that black players were not welcome at football games. 

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