Mudcat Grant: Overcoming Racism One Base at a Time

By AISMS Admin | 8/27/14 |

One Base at a Time: Overcoming Racism Through Baseball

It happened twice a month. Every other Thursday they would gather in the streets, faces shrouded by white cloaks, silhouettes illuminated by the dancing light of their torches. They would ride through the black section of town, shouting obscenities and firing their guns in to the homes with no regard for what – or whom – they hit.

For most people living in 21st century America this is the stuff of movies, a gut-wrenching sequence that is almost too surreal to believe. But to James “Mudcat” Grant it was just a normal part of childhood, an occurrence as regular as Sunday School or baseball games.

As the Klu Klux Klan swarmed the streets of Lacoochee, Florida, Grant’s mother would protect her children from stray gunfire by cramming them in to a wood-box barely big enough to fit them all inside. Who would have thought that in less than two decades, that scared child shivering next to his siblings would be discussing race relations with President John F. Kennedy around a breakfast table?

It’s stories such as this that the Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media & Society (AISMS) is attempting to save for posterity in their ongoing project, “The African-American Experience of Major League Baseball”. The oral history project chronicles the trials, tribulations and triumphs of African-American baseball players in the 25 years following Jackie Robinson’s 1947 breaking of Major League Baseball’s race barrier.

Grant recently sat down with the institute’s director, Dr. Dan Durbin, to discuss his life and career in a racially segregated America. The topics range from serious to silly, from the birth of the Civil Rights Movement in the 50s to the unfortunate rise of muttonchops in the 70s.

Although each interview is unique, and every player offers a new perspective on racism in America, the one common aspect is his experience of the entire spectrum of human nature. These players have seen mankind at its best and at its worst, at its most hateful and its most loving.

Through it all they gritted their teeth and kept on swinging, determined to make a difference one base at a time. Hopefully this project will not only help us recognize their bravery and perseverance, but also learn and grow from their experiences and perspectives.

For more information about the interviews, the project or how to contribute, please contact Dr. Daniel Durbin at .