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Texas Matters: Historic Black High School Football In Texas

The Houston Phillis Wheatley High School football team at the annual Thanksgiving Day game against Jack Yates High School, Houston, Texas, 1954.

This will be another weekend when America is transfixed by football – not for what’s on the field but on the sidelines. Taking a knee and knelling during the national anthem in protest against racial injustice in America is a hot button issue – largely due to the attention given it by President Trump.

Trump has called the players who decline to stand during the anthem unpatriotic, he has used profanity to describe them and has called on the National Football League to fire or suspend the players who use their constitutionally protected freedom of speech in this manner.  

Critics of Trump, of which there are many, say Trump’s attacks on the players is race based and is a deliberate move to excite a mostly white political base.

Trump’s response is that this is not about race but about respect for the American flag.

However, it’s difficult to separate race from the protests for a number of reasons including  the history of bigotry and football.

For sixty years high school football in Texas was under the boot of Jim Crow and was an overt demonstration of the unfairness of public education segregation.

Michael Hurd writes about it in the book Thursday Night Lights: The Story of Black High School Football in Texas.

Hurd is the director of Prairie View A&M University’s Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture, which documents the history of African American Texans.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi