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$40 Million Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete

by William C. Rhoden

From Jackie Robinson to Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe, African American athletes have been at the center of modern culture, their on-the-field heroics admired and stratospheric earnings envied. But for all their money, fame, and achievement, says "New York Times" columnist William C. Rhoden, black athletes still find themselves on the periphery of true power in the multibillion-dollar industry their talent built. Provocative and controversial, Rhoden's "$40 Million Slaves" weaves a compelling narrative of black athletes in the United States, from the plantation to their beginnings in nineteenth-century boxing rings and at the first Kentucky Derby to the history-making accomplishments of notable figures such as Jesse Owens, Althea Gibson, and Willie Mays. Rhoden makes the cogent argument that black athletes' " evolution" has merely been a journey from literal plantations-- where sports were introduced as diversions to quell revolutionary stirrings-- to today's figurative ones, in the form of collegiate and professional sports programs. Weaving in his own experiences growing up on Chicago's South Side, playing college football for an all-black university, and his decades as a sportswriter, Rhoden contends that black athletes' exercise of true power is as limited today as when masters forced their slaves to race and fight. The primary difference is, today's shackles are often of their own making.

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