The opening of the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 this week shines renewed light on the campaign to desegregate baseball, one of the most important civil rights stories of the 1930s and 1940s. UNP author Chris Lamb brilliantly encapsulates the larger history of Robinson, his sport, and a nation on the verge of great and enduring change in his book Blackout:
The Untold Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Spring Training. Lamb also writes about the story behind
the mainstream media’s efforts to preserve baseball’s color line and the attempts of the black and socialist and communist presses to end it in Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the
Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball (Winner of the 2013 AEJMC History Division Book Award, honoring the
best journalism and mass communication history book published in 2012).
With all the attention on the film right now, Lamb and his books have been featured in many articles.
Hollywood’s tendency to sensationalize history led Dave Zirin from the Nation to point out a few things
that may not be in the movie and mentions Lamb’s Blackout as a “brilliant book.”
The Atlantic’s Peter Drier calls Lamb’s Conspiracy of Silence “outstanding.” Drier also notes that “others will have quibbles with [Harrison] Ford’s [Branch] Rickey, portrayed as the classic savior figure.” Rickey was a fascinating character, and you can read more about him in Lee Lowenfish’s biography.
Lamb meanwhile mentions the relationship between Rickey and Robinson in his latest article in
the Wall Street Journal, “Jackie Robinson: Faith in Himself—and in God.”