Today, as we continue to celebrate African American History month, we’re sharing an interview with Lane Demas, whose book, Game of Privilege: An African American History of Golf, won the 2017 Herbert Warren Wind Book Award from the United States Golf Association (USGA). This award is part of the USGA’s annual Service Awards, celebrating the the leadership, dedication and exemplary efforts of individuals who have devoted their time and talents to serve the game.
Game of Privilege is a groundbreaking history of African Americans and golf, exploring the role of race, class, and public space in golf course development, the stories of individual black golfers during the age of segregation, the legal battle to integrate public golf courses, and the little-known history of the United Golfers Association (UGA)–a black golf tour that operated from 1925 to 1975. Demas charts how African Americans nationwide organized social campaigns, filed lawsuits, and went to jail in order to desegregate courses; he also provides dramatic stories of golfers who boldly confronted wider segregation more broadly in their local communities. As national civil rights organizations debated golf’s symbolism and whether or not to pursue the game’s integration, black players and caddies took matters into their own hands and helped shape its subculture, while UGA participants forged one of the most durable black sporting organizations in American history as they fought to join the white Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA).
Game of Privilege is available now in both print and e-book editions.
Here’s a snippet from the interview. You can read the full text of the interview at the USGA site.
Why did this book need to be written?
There have been hundreds of books written on the subject of race related to other sports like baseball and football, but golf is underserved in that regard. There are a few very good books out there by the likes of Calvin Sinnette and Pete McDaniel, but very little from full-fledged historians. I wasn’t that familiar with the game going in, so I came at it as an outsider. Because of that, I asked different questions such as, “How does the game fit into a broader picture of society?” that I thought needed more attention.
What stereotypes were you looking to challenge?
A lot of people think the story of golf and race begins with Tiger Woods, but it goes back more than 100 years and is a very important aspect of social history. I explored the roles that African Americans have played from the start to illustrate how they have left their stamp on the game in so many ways.
Where does Tiger fit into this story?
He’s certainly a major figure, but it’s complex. People want to make him the face of the movement, but it isn’t accurate to compare him to Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Tiger’s accomplishments have been extremely significant, but there were so many others that came before him. He’s also uncomfortable only being referred to as black. His multiracial heritage is something that he has embraced from the beginning.
Continue reading over at the USGA website.
Lane Demas is associate professor of history at Central Michigan University. You can read his previous UNC Press Blog post here.