In 1961, Bobby Mitchell successfully integrated the Washington Redskins, the last whites-only football team in the NFL. Fifty years later, Mitchell joined The Nation‘s Dave Zirin, author Michael Eric Dyson and FanHouse columnist Kevin Blackistone to explain how it felt to play in a stadium surrounded by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party: “I think people might not realize how hard it was,” Mitchell says. But throughout this dangerous period in his life, Mitchell never lost sight of the importance of his role in forging a place for the Black community in sports, and in the broader American society.

For his part, Dyson argues that we seldom hear about the struggle of African Americans in sports because the US has a long history of simply avoiding uncomfortable truths. “We try to avoid dealing with it because it implies that something was wrong with us. If something was wrong with us in America, then the argument that we’ve made about our superiority cannot stand.”

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Sara Jerving