“I think it’s added a certain dimension to our collection of African-American culture, ” said Ginger Cain, interim director of the MARBL. “Sports is a great equalizer in many ways. Every piece has a story and a connects to something else.”
For instance, the ticket stub to the Louis-Schmeling match was once owned by acclaimed author Richard Wright, who covered the fight for the Daily Worker, a newspaper published by the Communist Party USA.
“Lives and Battles of Famous Black Pugilists, ” published in the 1800s, is in the collection.
“It’s wonderful web of personal stories, ” Cain said.
This isn’t the first such project for Emory. The library recently received a matching grant to preserve and digitize dozens of African-American scrapbooks, including collections belonging to writer Alice Walker and black vaudeville performer Johnny Hudgins.
Joe Louis was told to knock his opponents out or the judges’ decision might go against him.
Burkett hopes the collection, which is available to the public, will “spur someone to do research or work on African-Americans sports figures. “We’re not just going to put these items in cases. They’re here for people to look at them and study them” so they can understand African-American history and culture.
He said plans include collecting interviews with historic sports figures. Famous athletes, black and white, have often been treated as orphans in academia and Emory wants to change that view.
People remember the scandals but not the challenges that many early players had to overcome, professionally and personally.
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