How did this project come about?
“In some of the articles that I’ve done over the years, I keep pointing out, Hey, this needs to be done when it comes to African-American heritage—specifically, pre-integration schools. Then I realized, you know, no one’s doing it in a concerted way. Maybe I should just step up and try to give it my best shot. So, I thought a book would be one way to catalyze that effort.”
Were there any stories that surprised you?
“The Black Razorbacks surprised me—still surprise me. It was a group of teenage African-Americans native to Fayetteville in the late 1920s [who] began scrimmaging against their white neighbors who lived in the same south-Fayetteville neighborhood. And as they grew older, the African-American boys joined a community team—and became known as “the Black Razorbacks” in the white-owned newspaper. And the reason was because the Razorbacks gave them hand-me-downs, and so did the [Fayetteville] Bulldogs. The Black Razorbacks would scrimmage against the same group of white players who were then at Fayetteville High School. And the Razorback coaches would coach the black players on the side. It definitely surprised me, because not only was there Jim Crow-era competition going on—but Jim Crow-era contact sports.”
What do all these stories mean today?
“When it comes to [sports] heritage from an African-American standpoint—I think this is true—it has always been political. There is no way you can divorce sports from off-the-field issues when it comes to all these socioeconomic issues swirling around. There’s no separating the two. And that’s something to keep in mind when we look at Colin Kaepernick or these national-anthem protests going on around police brutality; you can’t just say, I want to keep sports out of politics. Especially when, in the ’30s and ’40s, you had Jackie Robinson being pushed into the political realm by Major League Baseball. And before that, Jessie Owens was being pushed into the political realm when the U.S. wanted him to run in Nazi Germany. And now, some in society are acting like that’s not kosher.”
On Feb. 28, Evin will be part of a panel discussion at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, along with NBA and NCAA All-Star Sidney Moncrief and National High School Sports Hall of Fame coach Oliver Elders. For more information, visit crystalbridges.org. For more information about Evin’s book, visit thesportsseer.com.