Reaction to research on Alabama Football Integration (Post 2)

After doing research for a few weeks, I am now beginning to start writing on my topic. I have read a number of really interesting articles and newspaper articles ranging from the last five years to decades ago. It has been an interesting and new experience going through the archives of publications like the New York Times, LA Times, and Sports Illustrated. These primary sources have been valuable in looking at how my issue, the integration of Alabama football, was portrayed both in the immediate aftermath and currently.

I also watched a really good Showtime documentary on the subject called “Against the Tide.” If you are interested in this type of subject, I suggest watching it on your own time because it is certainly worth it (you can get Showtime for a month free like I did). The documentary was filled with many interesting perspectives and, more importantly, first hand accounts of the important USC-Alabama game that started the 1970 college football season. Through it, I was able to take note of the reactions of civil rights activists at the time as well as hear about interactions between white Alabama players and everyday Tuscaloosa citizens after the blowout.

Next, I read through three books that pertained to my topic. The first focused on the process of desegregation at the University of Alabama in the face of Governor George Wallace. It was filled with interesting information and small unexpected connections to the college football team. For example, after the successful registration of James Hood and Vivian Malone in the summer of 1963 in the face of Governor Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door” speech, University of Alabama trustees celebrated the success in Coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant’s office.

I also read through 2 books that focused on Bear Bryant’s coaching career in Alabama. While they mostly focused on the actually play by play of games (not that I minded that as a fan), they extensively brought in information regarding the social commentary surrounding each season. It is quite amazing to read about how deeply entwined racial politics and  sports were in the south with Alabama being the primary example. I am looking forward to getting started writing about it.

Lastly, after my extensive research, my ideas have changed profoundly regarding my evaluation of what happened in Alabama. Originally, I saw the USC-Alabama game as a watershed start of the desegregation process. Rather, I now see it as the end of Alabama’s attempts to avoid desegregation and the beginning of an era supporting integration in Alabama. Coach Bryant has also evolved for me from a mythical figure, as he is portrayed in the south, to the morally ambiguous figure that remains shrouded in mystery to this day. My next steps, to beginning writing and connecting this issue to the present, seem much easier due to the amount of info I was fortunate enough to find with the help of my project adviser.

Comments

  1. I think the variety of sources you are studying is very interesting and I wonder what the comparisons are like between the articles, documentaries and books all about the same events. Have you noticed a consistent bias/angle across the different types of sources? Are you comparing how different sources (documentaries, newspapers, magazines etc.) describe the events? It would be very interesting to consider how the time and place that each source was written/filmed influences the overall tone of the piece. I’m very interested to see your final conclusions! Best of luck!

  2. Thanks for reading! How people have viewed Bear Bryant’s role differ a lot based on time. Older sources definitely tend to be more positive in their portrayals of certain aspects of the story. Some later on see him as opportunist and somewhere closer to a coward than a hero, while others focus on the difficulty of the position he was in what he did help accomplish. Additionally, given how shrouded the man’s true goals were, the line between myth and fact are sometimes hard to place. I think I’ve done a good job going through the many different sources and striking the balance on how to praise and criticize The Bear deservedly.

  3. It sounds like the sources vary a lot in their portrayals – that must be very interesting and also confusing! Thank you for answering my questions!

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