New York Times Finest Seller
2015 RFK Book Awards Unique Acknowledgment
2015 Lillian Smith Book Award
2015 AAUP Books Committee "Exceptional" Title
Based upon more than eighty interviews, this busy, richly comprehensive bio of Perry Wallace, the very first African American basketball gamer in the SEC, digs deep below the surface to reveal a more complex and extensive story of sports pioneering than we've come to get out of the genre. Perry Wallace's uncommonly insightful and truthful introspection reveals his inner thoughts throughout his journey.Wallace got in kindergarten the year that Brown v. Board of Education upended" different however equal." As a 12-year-old, he sneaked downtown to view the sit-ins at Nashville's lunch counters. A week after Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Wallace got in high school, and later saw the passage of the Civil Rights and Ballot Rights acts. On March 16, 1966, his Pearl High School basketball team won Tennessee's very first integrated state tournament-- the exact same day Adolph Rupp's all-white Kentucky Wildcats lost to the all-black Texas Western Miners in an iconic NCAA title game.The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, when Vanderbilt hired him, Wallace courageously accepted the task to desegregate the SEC. His experiences on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be absolutely nothing like he ever imagined.On campus, he encountered the leading civil liberties figures of the day, consisting of Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King Jr.,
Fannie Lou Hamer, and Robert Kennedy-- and he led Vanderbilt's little group of black students to a conference with the university chancellor to push for much better treatment.On the basketball court, he experienced an Ole Miss boycott and the rabid hate of the Mississippi State fans in Starkville. Following his freshman year, the NCAA set up" the Lew Alcindor guideline, "which deprived Wallace of his signature relocation, the slam dunk.Despite this effort to restrict the influence of a rising tide of black stars, the final basket of Wallace's college profession was a cathartic and bold dunk, and the story Wallace told to the Vanderbilt Person Relations Committee and later The Tennessean was not the easy story of a triumphant trailblazer that many individuals wished to hear. Yes, he had gone from hearing racial epithets when he appeared in his dorm room to being voted as the university's most popular trainee, however, at the danger of being labeled "thankless," he spoke truth to power in describing the daily slights and abuses he had gotten rid of and what Martin Luther King had called" the agonizing isolation of a leader. "