Bookshelf

Bookshelf provides descriptions and notices of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects.

Sandlot Seasons: Sport in Black Pittsburgh

by Rob Ruck
Univer­sity of Illinois Press, 1987 (238 pages, cloth, $21.95)

From the Roaring Twenties through the Korean War, sports played a major role in shaping Pittsburgh’s Black community. Focusing on these years, Sandlot Seasons reveals how sandlot, amateur and professional athletics helped Black Pittsburgh realize its potential for self-organization, expression and creativity. The author shows that – until the advent of television and the commercialization of sports­ – sandlot and Negro League teams, such as the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays (baseball) and the Gar­field Eagles (football), had a profound impact on life throughout the Black commu­nity. As a result, the book provides a rich description of the many meanings of sports for Blacks beyond the traditional, if not illusory, “ticket out” of poverty. Sandlot Seasons illustrates how sports also played a supportive role in the coalescence of Black community both during and after the migrations of the early twenti­eth century. Through identifi­cation with teams and individual players, sports fostered a keen sense of pride in Black Pittsburgh that often transcended divisions between migrant and Pittsburgh-born Blacks and among those of different social classes. Sports served an important social function – one that was vital to team members’ self-esteem and neighborhood identity. Sports offered a forum for political assertion, albeit sym­bolic, and an arena for real political struggle. During the 1930s and 1940s, sports ener­gized Black consciousness in ways that went unmatched by other aspects of Black life.

 

To Secure the Blessings of Liberty

by Louis M. Waddell
Pennsylvania Histori­cal and Museum Commission, 1986 (69 pages, paper, $4.95)

Subtitled Pennsylvania and the Changing U.S. Constitution, this book of easy-to-read es­says reflects the human dilem­mas and working concerns that have brought Americans before their highest court of law. For two centuries, the Supreme Court, in reviewing significant cases, has ulti­mately decided how the land­mark document should be interpreted and the law applied (see “Courting the Constitution” by Robert E. Woodside, Jr., in the summer 1987 issue). The author skillfully provides a glimpse as the social history that lies behind constitutional questions and their resolution by the Su­preme Court. Through the use of seventeen examples – which actually originated in Pennsyl­vania or reflect its tradition­ – the Supreme Court’s use of the Constitution as a shield against arbitrary government and narrow conceptions of good and evil is thoroughly examined and analyzed. By emphasizing matters of a so­cial or a historical nature that are woven into the cases, rep­resentative studies of impor­tant themes in Pennsylvania’s rich history are created. The cases selected by the author involve fascinating historical experiences, even though the chapters were arbitrarily ar­ranged and do not address the Constitution entirely. The four chapters are entitled “Govern­mental Powers,” “Business and Commerce,” “Crimes” and “Protecting Individuals.” The earliest case, Thomas Turner, Administrator of John Wright Stanly v. Bank of North America is dated 1799, while the most recent is the 1972 Wisconsin v. Jonas Yoder et al.

 

Slow Burn: A Photo­-Document of Centra­lia, Pennsylvania

by Renee Jacobs
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986 (152 pages, paper, $24.95)

Slow Burn is a powerful pictorial chronicle of the Centralia, Northumberland County, mine fire disaster. The author’s award-winning pho­tography and her ability to capture, through interviews, the victims’ real emotions and human suffering provide a unique history of this highly publicized tragedy. While the extensive reporting and news coverage took place during the culmination of this disaster, this photo-document has given the victims – for the first time – a chance to talk about the frightening experience in their own words. The intro­duction by Margaret O. Kirk provides historical information and data about Centralia and the beginning of the fire. The captivating and intimate writ­ing style of the introduction paints a vivid portrait of the small, peaceful town and of how the lingering mine fire led to its destruction – and the destruction of its residents’ once closely-knit spirit of fam­ily and community. The au­thor’s photographs, captioned with the words of the subjects themselves, capture the emo­tion and courage demon­strated by the people of Centralia. Their thoughts and feelings are illuminated through the text and illustra­tions with sensitivity and compassion. Slow Burn, through its touching photo­graphs and honest (if not often bitter) interviews, is compel­ling reading for social histo­rians, as well as for individuals fascinated by what industry has wrought.