Time for the South to Integrate Record Books

Black high school athletes from the Jim Crow era have been denied their place in history.

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Seattle University; Cal Athletics

By Evin Demirel

For a state of 3 million people, Arkansas has produced more than its share of basketball heroes. Sidney Moncrief, Scottie Pippen, Derek Fisher and Joe Johnson have accrued 18 All-Star appearances and 11 NBA titles. As high schoolers, however, none of them stacked up to Eddie Miles and Jackie Ridgle.

In the 1950s, Miles led North Little Rock's all-black Scipio Jones High School to four straight state titles. "We called him 'rocking chair' because he would absolutely rock you," one of his opponents told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2002. "He could drop 50 on you whenever he wanted." Ridgle, who was reputed to have a 40-inch vertical leap, regularly scored in the 30-point range in leading Altheimer's Martin High School to its first all-black-schools state championship in 1966. But when you look at Arkansas' official list of all-time leading high-school scorers, you won't see Miles and Ridgle.

It's not just Arkansas that omits the feats of black high schoolers who played in segregated schools. In 1956, forward Hubert "Geese" Ausbie of Crescent, Okla., scored 186 points over three consecutive tournament games for all-black Douglas High School. Ausbie, who went on to play the role of the "Clown Prince of Basketball" for the Harlem Globetrotters, recalls averaging from 30 to 40 points a game as a high schooler. Ausbie's name, though, isn't on Oklahoma's all-time scoring list. (He tells me he should be near the top, in the neighborhood of supposed all-time leader Rotnei Clarke.) And Ausbie isn't the only former Globetrotter who might be unfairly excluded from the record book. Other possibilities from Oklahoma alone include Marquis Haynes, who helped the Globetrotters defeat the NBA champion Minneapolis Lakers, and twins Lawrence and Lance Cudjoe.

These legends' absence from the historical record -- and their resulting exclusion from news stories about modern-day prep basketball stars -- is a direct consequence of the Deep South's segregationist past. Before the late 1960s, whites played against whites and blacks played against blacks. Arkansas, like many other states, separated its athletics associations by race. In 1967, what had been the all-white association incorporated its black counterpart, and what's now the Arkansas Activities Association was born. This merger, though, was not accompanied by the integration of the state record book.

Read the rest of the article at Slate.

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