The Boycott of Marianna Lee High School’s Basketball Team: Part 2

Below is Part 2 of a two-part series on the 1972 strike by nearly every member of the Lee High basketball team. Read Part 1 here.

The strike began soon after January 13 as part of a larger boycott involving African-American students at Lee High in Marianna, Ark. The only member of the basketball team, coached by James Banks, who stayed on was its sole white player.

One of the reasons for the student strike* was that the African-American students (and many of their parents) wanted  an official observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. School officials agreed to talk to five or 10 of the students but not to the whole group. The students at first refused, but later agreed to a meeting with then school superintendent Dr. H.C. “Buddy” Dial, according to an April 20, 1972 Gazette article by Wayne Jordan. Jordan added:

“Witnesses have said it wasn’t the policy of the school to dismiss classes or hold an assembly in honor of a person’s birthday other than Jesus Christ’s”

Bob Blankenship, the principal of Lee County, told the Arkansas Democrat that the strike—and the cancellation of the season it caused—hurt more than sports. “We’re all distressed, from top to bottom, not only the coaches but everybody. The good, strong athletic program is probably the best morale builder you have in high school. The loss of basketball will affect the morale of these students who are in school and those who are not, not only now but in the future also.”

According to the Gazette, Marianna’s Lee High had 1,000 students, 80% of whom were African-American. In the year before the strike, 200 whites had moved to nearby Lee Academy, a private school.

*The students’ strike came on the heels of a community-wide economic boycott which started the previous summer. Marianna’s black Concerned Citizens group organized a boycott against white-owned businesses on June 11, 1971 which lasted until at least February 1972. In that span, 13 businesses closed.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Citizens Council, a group advocating segregation, said it had experienced a sharp increase of members to reach 300 members. (Arkansas Gazette, 2.11.1972).

Best Regular Seasons in Razorback Basketball History

The best regular seasons in Razorback history belong to Sidney Moncrief and Todd Day, not Corliss Williamson.

Below are the best regular seasons in Arkansas basketball history in terms of overall wins.

  1.  1990-91

Regular Season Record: 28-3

(15-1 SWC record)

Home: 13-1, Road: 10-1

Postseason Games, via HogStats.com:

Fri, Mar 8, 1991 #5 vs. Texas A&M W 108-61 Dallas, TX SWC Tournament

Sat, Mar 9, 1991 #5 vs. Rice W 109-80 Dallas, TX Raycom SWC Tournament

Sun, Mar 10, 1991 #5 vs. #23 Texas W 120-89 Dallas, TX ABC SWC Tournament (Championship)

Fri, Mar 15, 1991 #2 vs. Georgia St. W 117-76 Atlanta, GA CBS NCAA Tournament (1st round)

Sun, Mar 17, 1991 #2 vs. Arizona St. W 97-90 Atlanta, GA CBS NCAA Tournament (2nd round)

Thu, Mar 21, 1991 #2 vs. #19 Alabama W 93-70 Charlotte, NC CBS NCAA Tournament (Sweet 16)

Sat, Mar 23, 1991 #2 vs. #12 Kansas L 81-93 Charlotte, NC CBS NCAA Tournament (Elite 8)

Final Record: 34-4

 

2. 1977-78

Regular Season: 26-2

(14-2 SWC)

11-0 in regular season home games, 11-2 in regular season away games

Postseason Games:

Sat, Feb 25, 1978 #4 TCU W 84-42 Fayetteville, AR SWC Tournament

Thu, Mar 2, 1978 #4 vs. SMU W 94-73 Houston, TX SWC Tournament (Quarterfinals)

Sat, Mar 4, 1978 #4 @ Houston L 69-70 Houston, TX SWC Tournament (Semifinals)

Sat, Mar 11, 1978 #7 vs. Weber St. W 73-52 Eugene, OR NCAA Tournament (1st round)

Thu, Mar 16, 1978 #5 vs. #2 UCLA W 74-70 Albuquerque, NM NCAA Tournament (Sweet 16)

Sat, Mar 18, 1978 #5 vs. Cal St. Fullerton W 61-58 Albuquerque, NM NCAA Tournament (Elite 8)

Sat, Mar 25, 1978 #5 vs. #1 Kentucky L 59-64 St. Louis, MO NCAA Tournament (Semifinal)

Mon, Mar 27, 1978 #5 vs. #6 Notre Dame W 71-69 St. Louis, MO NCAA Tournament (3rd place game)

Final Record: 32-4

Continue reading Best Regular Seasons in Razorback Basketball History

The LRSD To Begin Pilot Program with “African-American Athletes in Arkansas”

In the spring semester, Little Rock School District social studies classes will begin to implement my book into curricula.

I’m pleased to announce that Little Rock School District social studies teachers at the high school and middle school levels plan to incorporate lesson plans based off of African-American Athletes in Arkansas starting in January 2018. As an alum of the district (Jefferson, Pulaski Heights, Central), this means a lot to me. It is a significant first step in the public history mission that inspired me to write the book in the first place.

Below is one example of the four lesson plans which have been created off of the book. Here the credit goes to educator Dustin Seaton, and to Jason Endacott, who sent me to Seaton.

If you want me to send you this lesson plan as a separate file, or have any other questions, feel free to reach me at info@heritageofsports.com.

LESSON PLAN

Created by Dustin Seaton, GT Specialist, NWA ESC

 

  1. Descriptive Data

Teacher: __________________________ Date: _____________________________

Subject Area: _Civics/AR History Grade Level: _______7th-12th __________

Unit Title: _U.S. Constitution/Civics        Lesson Title: Challenging the 1st Amendment

 

  1. Standards, Goals, & Objectives (National Middle School Association Standards 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)

Standards (list local, state, or national standards which will be met upon completion of this lesson): 

Lesson Goal(s):

  • Engage students in lively analysis and discussion of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as it applies to freedom of speech and religion
  • Challenge students to understand another person’s point of view

Lesson Objective(s):

Civics

PD.3.C.1: Evaluate rights and responsibilities of citizens in the United States.

PD.4.C.3: Examine the amendments to the U.S. Constitution in order to determine how the roles of citizens and the federal and state governments have changed over time

(e.g., Bill of Rights, incorporation of states’ rights into government, interpretation, due process, voting rights)

PD.4.C.7: Construct arguments analyzing citizens’ rights protected by the U.S. Constitution and constitutional amendments using multiple sources

AR History (7/8th Grade)

H.7.AH.7-8.8: Analyze social, economic, and political effects of the Civil Rights Movement on various regions in Arkansas from multiple perspectives (e.g., integration, state legislation)

AR History (9-12th Grade)

Era5.5.AH.9-12.4: Analyze the social, economic, and political effects of the Civil Rights Movement in various regions of Arkansas using primary and secondary sources from multiple perspectives

(e.g., segregation; voting; integration of Fayetteville, Hoxie, and Little Rock School Districts; federal and state legislation)

Era6.6.AH.9-12.4: Analyze ways that Arkansans addressed a variety of public issues by using or challenging local, state, national, and international laws

African-American History (9-12)

IE.6.AAH.2: Examine the various influences of African Americans on social change using primary and secondary sources from multiple perspectives (e.g., migration, feminism, military, social organizations)

JU.7.AAH.2: Identify unresolved social, economic, and political challenges for African American men and women from 1970 to the present using a variety of sources representing multiple perspectives

  1. Background

Muhammad Ali’s story of a prizefighter and boxer are known largely for his success in the ring, but students should also know about his successful challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court. Prizefighting has been characterized as a true test of skill, courage, intelligence, and manhood while boxing champions have also become symbols of national and often racial superiority. On October 29, 1960, Cassius Clay fought in his first professional bout as a boxer and continued winning throughout the decade. He earned nicknames such as “Louisville Lip” and “Mighty Mouth” because of his outspokenness and personality both in and out of the boxing ring. By 1964, at the age of just twenty-two years old, he became the world heavyweight boxing champion by defeating the incumbent champion Sonny Liston. Clay soon joined the Nation of Islam, abandoned his “slave name,” and started to go by Muhammad Ali during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. His biggest fight then came from his stance against the federal government in 1966 when he refused to be drafted in the U.S. military to fight in the Vietnam War. Ali cited his religious beliefs and person conviction of being opposed to the U.S. involvement in war as his refusal to be drafted. He publicly stated, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullet on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” He later added, “Man, I ain’t go no quarrel with them Viet Cong.” In April of 1967, he was arrested and found guilty of refusing to serve in the U.S. military. He was later suspended from boxing and stripped of his titles and license to box. Unable to practice his profession, Ali began touring the country and speaking at colleges/universities about Nation of Islam, civil rights, and other things of personal interest. Five years after his initial arrest, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his in a landmark case Clay v. United States (1971) where a unanimous Supreme Court ruled the federal government had violated Ali’s “conscientious objector” exemption which was protected by the First Amendment. “For less than a week in March 1969, the world’s most famous former heavyweight champion toured the state of Arkansas” (pg. 127, Demirel)

Continue reading The LRSD To Begin Pilot Program with “African-American Athletes in Arkansas”

Yes, LeBron James’ First NBA Coach Is From Prescott, Arkansas

Paul Silas is known to most of the basketball world as a Creighton legend, two-time NBA All-Star and a three-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics. He later became a head coach at the NBA level, including with the Cleveland Cavaliers where he became LeBron James’ first pro coach in 2003.

Silas grew up in Prescott, Arkansas, and on Thursday evening I’m going to helm a panel that includes long-time sportswriter Wadie Moore and his Silas’ junior high coach Joe Hale. Hale, still fit and hale at age 92, is something of a walking encyclopedia when it comes to black sports in Arknasas before integration. He is among the living legends like Eddie Boone, Johnny Greenwood and Oliver Elders (who has told me he will also attend) who can provide the current generation (and future generations) with knowledge of a largely unrecorded history.

Here’s more about all three of us and the location, Pyramid Art, Books and Custom Framing.

Arkansas Author Connection
Thursday, November 30, 2017
6:00 pm
Evin Demirel
author of
African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks
& Other Forgotten Stories
 
(Paperback) $24.99
About Evin Demirel
 
A former Latin teacher and Democrat-Gazette reporter, Demirel writes often about the intersection of sports, race relations and regional history. In September, he spoke at the Clinton School of Public Service about sports and the public history gap between African-American and white communities statewide. A father of one, he graduated from Little Rock Central High School and the University of Arkansas.
Panelists Include:
Wadie Moore, Jr.
 
Moore, Jr., a 1968 graduate of Horace Mann High School, broke ground as the first black African-American sportswriter at the Arkansas Gazette that same year. He attended Philander Smith College and stayed with the Gazette through 1991. After briefly worked as the editor of the Pine Bluff Commercial, Moore went to the Arkansas Activities Association, where he retired as assistant executive director in 2017. For years he tried to track down records of all-black high schools pre-integration and summon statewide interest in chronicling their heritage.
Joe Hale
 
In 1945, Hale starred as a shooting guard on the Oak Grove High in the Prescott area. His ’45 team played in the National Basketball Tournament for Black Schools in Nashville, Tenn. He then played basketball for AM&N before coaching basketball and football at the McRae High School. Among his players was Paul Silas, who would go on to become a two-time NBA All-Star and the first professional head coach of LeBron James. Hale, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from AM&N and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas, became principal of McRae High School in 1958. In later decades, he also served as principal of Lee High School in Marianna and assistant principal at Little Rock Central High.
“Evin Demirel is one of my favorite young sportswriters… He has written for a lot of publications and websites, The New York Times, Deadspin and this newspaper among them. A graceful writer who brings seriousness and an uncommon alertness to history and culture to his work, Demirel’s chief concern is bringing fresh, under-reported stories to light. In the age of the hot take, where self-branding and marketing seem fundamental to the pursuit of any media career, Demirel stands out for his commitment to honest journalism.
So it’s not difficult to recommend his new book… It is, as advertised, a deeply compelling survey of the heretofore neglected history of black athletes in 20th-century Arkansas.”
“Going beyond the title, this book stresses the relationships between Arkansan African Americans and whites alike. Yes, the hook is sports, but the subject matter is wide-ranging, weaving together regional and national historical strands of education, religion, politics, economics and civil rights. I recommend it as a resource for all Arkansas high school (and even middle school) administrators. They should seriously look at it as a learning tool for their students.”
– Dr. John L Colbert, Associate Superintendent for Support Services, Fayetteville Public Schools
“Really well written, informative stories about the Arkansas greats and people who paved the way for my dad, Almer Lee, Martin Terry and others…. It will speak to athletes, coaches and history lovers across the state and region, and should be read by Razorback fans of all backgrounds. But its reach should be wider-it’s national history as well.”
-Fayetteville native Ronnie Brewer, two-time All-SEC Razorbacks basketball player

Preview the book here.

 

Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing | Hearne Fine Art, 1001 Wright Avenue, Ste C, Little Rock, AR 72206

What Happened to the Kneeling Razorbacks?

A look at the six Razorback basketball players more than a year after their national anthem protest.

On Nov 3, 2016, six female Razorback players locked arms and kneeled as the national anthem played before a home basketball game. “Recently you all know that there’s been a lot of killings from police officers of African-Americans and other minorities,” Razorback Jordan Danberry said afterward. “Me and my teammates took a kneel today during the national anthem to speak for those who are oppressed. As Razorback student-athletes we have a platform to do that.”

The protest came with significant cost. The kneeling Razorbacks and their coaches (specifically former head coach Jimmy Dykes), who publicly supported them, suffered severe public criticism mixed with support. Former athletic director Jeff Long also supported the players’ rights to free speech. Long, too, sustained public heat for that support. This event, and his initial hiring of Dykes, almost certainly played a role—albeit a small one relative to the football program’s struggles—in Long’s firing just last week.

Four of the six protesters ended up quitting the team. At least one has transferred to another program. The classifications below refer to the player as of the 2016-17 school year.

Sophomore Jordan Danberry

The Conway native quit the team within weeks of the protest, and transferred to Mississippi State. Vic Schaefer, said Danberry should be academically eligible and ready to play for MSU against Little Rock on Dec. 10.

Senior Tatiyana Smith

The Plano, TX native quit in November, 2016 due to an undisclosed medical reason. She was on track to earn a criminal justice degree by May 2017.

Sophomore Briunna Freeman

Quit the program by early January, 2017. The UA honored her scholarship through the end of the academic year.  She returned to her home state of Georgia.

Freshmen Kiara Williams and Jailyn Mason

They are the only kneeling Razorbacks still on the team in the first year of new head coach Mike Neighbors.“It hasn’t been a discussion this year,” Neighbors said early this season. “I think that was last year, they’ve all lived through it already, and I don’t think that’s been something that they talk about doing again.”

Williams, an Alexander, AR native, is averaging 7.7 points and 6 rebounds a game for the 2-1 Razorbacks. Mason, a Mason, OH native, averages 9.3 points and 3.7 rebounds.

Redshirt Freshman Yasmeen Ratliff

The Alpharetta, GA native left the program by the end of the season. Interestingly, her father, Theo Ratliff, was an NBA All-Star and the best defensive player in the history of Wyoming basketball. When it comes to college sports protests, there is another, more direct link between the Wyoming Cowboys and Arkansas.

In 1969, Pine Bluff native Ivie Moore became one of The Black 14, a group of Cowboys football players who launched one of the most significant college sports protests of the era. I write more about it in my book on Arkansas heritage, sports and race relations.

Here’s the first page of the Ivie Moore chapter:

Wyoming football

Sports & Race Talks at the Clinton House Museum & Pine Bluff historical museum

My book tour continue with talks in Fayetteville and Pine Bluff about state heritage, race relations and sports. Here are the press releases for the events this week:

  1. Interested in social justice and sports? At 6 pm on Thursday, Evin Demirel will be the featured speaker at the Clinton House Museum. Demirel is the author of African-American Athletes in Arkansas and will discuss Muhammad Ali’s visit to the UA in 1969 and sports as an agent for social change. Free cheese and wine will also be served at the free talk and signing. Go here to RSVP. Of his book, Razorback legend Ronnie Brewer says, “It will speak to athletes, coaches and history lovers across the state and region . . . But its reach should be wider–it’s national history as well.”
  2. Are you interested in social justice or sports? At 2 pm on Sunday, sports historian Evin Demirel will be the featured speaker at the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Historical Museum. Demirel is the author of African-American Athletes in Arkansas and will discuss Muhammad Ali’s visit to Pine Bluff in 1969, the national championship-winning Merrill High football programs of the 1930s and sports as an agent for social change. His book, which features rarely seen photos of UAPB athletic teams from a century ago, was completed with the help of UAPB’s museum and cultural center.Here is one such photo:

Merrill High football

The Arkansas Sports Media Is Turning On Bret Bielema

Three of the state’s leading sportswriters lay into Bielema following the Coastal Carolina debacle

For years, Bret Bielema and the Arkansas sports media enjoyed a prolonged honeymoon. On the whole, columnists, reporters and broadcasters enjoyed covering him and he seemed to enjoy riffing with them. In the times I interviewed him his first couple years, his enthusiasm and swagger always made for a fun, interesting conversation.

Bielema, after all, is a likable guy. And it helped that in his first three seasons at Arkansas, his teams clearly improved. Perhaps the culmination of the good times with local media came near the end of 2015 season, when sports radio host Bo Mattingly began producing a feel-good, behind-the-scenes mini series on Bielema and his program. No doubt, Bielema knew such a project could only help market his personality and the Razorback brand to potential recruits and fans.

Public image, after all, is so important in the entertainment industry. That’s one reason Jeff Long signed on to be the chairman of the College Football Playoff Selection Commitee, a position that for two years gave him and Arkansas much national exposure.

This year, though, as the 4-5 Hogs have seemingly regressed in every phase of the game, the local media has begun to turn on Bret Bielema. And things are getting more heated in the aftermath of Arkansas’s worst win of the modern era, a 39-38 unthinkable catastrophe-aversion against Coastal Carolina, a 1-8 Sun Belt team.

The local media doesn’t turn on coaches on a whim, like so many fans are apt to do. Media members understand that their access to covering games and interviewing players and coaches depends on maintaining a standard of professionalism and accuracy. Calling for a coach’s head after one bad game, or two or even three, is the kind of quick-trigger reaction-ism most professionals avoid.

But when enough bad efforts and worse executions happen over a long enough stretch, as they have in Arkansas football since last fall, then it becomes obvious that the issue is something systematic. And now, some big names in the Arkansas sports media landscape are calling this out. To wit:

1. Wally Hall, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist

Today, in his game recap column, Hall writers earlier this season Coastal Carolina team had lost to Arkansas State—traditionally only the second-best program in state—by 34 points and 10 of the Chanticleers’ points came against A-State subs. After lamenting the Hogs’ woeful defense, Wall also delivered this indictment:

Perhaps the biggest concern should be the leadership at the UA, and that means at the top. Who allowed a program that was in the Sugar Bowl after the 2010 season to slip to the point it has to charge back to slip by a visiting team that hasn’t won a Sun Belt game?

It should be noted that Bret Bielema wasn’t even hired until 2012. Regardless of whether “leadership” here means Bielema, or athletic director Jeff Long, or both, Hall is no longer holding back on the public criticism. That’s a bad sign for Bielema’s future at Arkansas.

2. Kurt Voigt, Associated Press Arkansas sports reporter

Speaking of Bret Bielema’s future at Arkansas, that’s a topic which in late October Voigt wanted to interview Long about. Most AP reporters strive to stay objective and report “just the facts.” But since that request Voigt hasn’t been afraid to chime in with observations and details that cause a buzz.

Continue reading The Arkansas Sports Media Is Turning On Bret Bielema

UA Alum Publishes History of African Americans in Arkansas Sports

In African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks & Other Forgotten Stories, alumnus Evin Demirel (BA’05) brings to light a little-known part of Arkansas history.

The journey from his roots in central Arkansas to historian is a bit circular. He went to Central High School in Little Rock, where he said race relations was a common topic discussed in hallways and classrooms. At the U of A, he majored in Classical Studies and taught Latin for a time.

But he got back into doing what he loved most: writing, specifically about public history.

In July, Demirel brought some of his previous essays and features together into African-American Athletes in Arkansas, a 200-page volume he seif-published. Many of the chapters, both previously published and brand new, are about the Razorbacks. “When it comes to sports in Arkansas,” Demirel said, “they are the defining brand, a unifying force for the state.”

He said that on the surface of this unifying force, there seemed to be a total exclusion of African-Americans prior to 1960. “But there were these exceptions to the strict rule of Jim Crow,” he said, “essentially all the time.”

These exceptions, and other important stories about African-
Americans in Arkansas, are often not remembered and little known. “There is a vast disparity in the public records of whites and blacks in Arkansas,” Demirel said.

In his introduction, he says the history of pre-integration African-American communities is vanishing as the people who lived through those times die. To that end, he created heritageofsports.com. One of the site’s purposes is to support an ongoing online project to commemorate people and events relating to sports and race in the South.

He said he wants to inject these “forgotten stories” into the sphere of public history. “I want it to become part of our states history and part of the curriculum at high schools and at the U of A,” he said.

“I don’t see this as the end of something,” he said, “but the start of something.”

The above originally published in the October 2017 issue of Arkansas, an alumni magazine produced by the University of Arkansas.  Delani Bartlette is the author.

The Future of NFL National Anthem Protests & Powerful White Men

The silver lining in filtering dialogue about national anthem kneeling and raised fists through a white perspective.

In today’s episode of Slate’s Hang Up and Listen podcast, host Stefan Fatsis explained the difficulty which modern NFL players find themselves in:

“They’re being asked to figure out a bunch of things — where they stand on racial injustice, freedom of expression, the right to push back against the president, how they feel about the anthem and flag. It puts a lot of unfair pressure on them, and now the way they react is interpreted politically.

If kneeling and raised fists and hands on shoulders diminishes over the subsequent weeks, well, then, people will just say ‘Well the NFL won. These guys are backing down. The players are wrong’ and this… conversation about race and justice gets filtered by how white people think about it.”

The show’s guest, former NFL Films producer Jamil Smith, then points out there’s a silver lining in that.

It’s a good thing, he says, because it means that a conversation about these issues—and the persistent menace of white supremacy in the U.S.—has at least started. The key, Smith says, is to press the issue with powerful white males. It is a minority of such men, after all, who enable white supremacy to fester in the 21st century, after all. And often they will listen to other powerful white males (e.g. NFL owners) more readily than anybody else.

“I think it’s OK it press these guys about the realities that [NFL] teammates have to endure when they leave the locker room. Because when they take those uniforms off, they are big black dudes in big, nice vehicles getting targeted.

And, sorry, it’s not too much to ask those guys to step up, to have an opinion.

You don’t necessarily have to put a hand on a shoulder, to kneel or to speak out. You can say ‘I understand. This is inspiring me to learn more about this issue. I’m trying to become a more educated citizen and I encourage everyone who’s listening to do the same.’

You don’t have to become a freedom fighter—it’s welcome—but you just have to become a more educated citizen. You have to exercise critical thinking and given how smart these guys are—and I know, I’ve interviewed a bunch of them—they can handle that task.

 

The Most Awesome Mayweather-McGregor Fight Prop Bets Known to Man

BetPhoenix.ag Releases More Betting Options For Mayweather-McGregor Super Fight

San Jose, Costa Rica: Today, BetPhoenix.ag, a major online sportsbook, announced they have released new proposition bets on the Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor fight.  They run the gamut from whether Mayweather will walk into the arena with gospel music blaring, to whether McGregor will bite Mayweather’s ear,

In line with the expectations this fight has created and the millions of dollars wagered on this event, BetPhoenix.ag is offering bettors more unusual prop bets not available at any other sportsbook.

Company representative Thomas Hughes, commenting on the interest this fight has sparked, said: “Since the infamous Tyson-Holyfield “Bite Fight,” there’s never been another event like this one. We’re expecting the fight may even bring in more money in bets than the Super Bowl. But, we want to push the envelope much further than usual by offering some new prop bets we believe will attract bettor’s attention.”

Continue reading The Most Awesome Mayweather-McGregor Fight Prop Bets Known to Man