1967 Wasn’t That Long Ago

Reggie Jackson and playing baseball in the Deep South.

Photo by SLT (Region’s Field is the current home of the Birmingham Barons)

Let’s start with the positive. There was a Major League Baseball game played in Birmingham, AL this week at Rickwood Field, the oldest professional ballpark in the country, which was once home to the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues. The game was a celebration of those Black players who had been denied entry into the Major Leagues. The recently departed Willie Mays played for the Black Barons when he was still in high school. For more on that story see WaPo, For Black baseball, game at Rickwood Field is tribute to past, hope for future or NPR, MLB game in Alabama takes on extra significance following Willie Mays’ death.

What I really want to highlight, however, is from (of all places) Awful Announcing: Reggie Jackson details sickening racism he faced playing in Alabama: ‘Wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

One of the most important and powerful moments from the night occurred when Reggie Jackson teared up during Fox’s pregame coverage as he recounted the racial slurs and threats he encountered as a minor leaguer playing in segregated Birmingham.

“How emotional is it for you to come back to a place that you played with one of the greatest teams around?” Alex Rodriguez asked Jackson from the MLB on Fox set at Rickwood Field. After being drafted by the Kansas City Athletics, Jackson played with their Double-A affiliate, the Birmingham A’s, in 1967, who played their home games at Rickwood Field.

A clip can be found here:

I would echo the following from the write-up:

There’s often an inclination to spin racism off as a story of progress. It’s important to remember these horrific details shared by Jackson occurred just 58 years ago. Many of the people who targeted Jackson with vicious racist attacks and death threats in 1967 are probably still alive today.

I think this is worth noting for reasons I outlined, at length, in my post Thinking about the Past. It also intersects with the following:

Don’t get me wrong: Birmingham in 2024 isn’t the same as Birmingham from 1967 (likewise, America writ large has made important strides), but I can’t help but reflect on how recent 1967 is in the grand scheme of things and, to the point of those linked posts, the degree to which a host of difficulties (and just basic realities) of 2024 were shaped by 1967.

It is also a reminder that those who call for America to be made great again by turning back the clock are either ignorant of what they are asking for or are all too malignant in their desires.

FILED UNDER: Race and Politics, Society, Sports, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Scott F. says:

    I’m going with “all too malignant in their desires.” The ignorance is willful.

  2. Jay L Gischer says:

    I agree. It’s sobering. I have more sobering thoughts: Racism is a “low-energy” state. It is based on things like affinity bias and the very deeply seated human tendency to classify people as “Us” and “Them”.

    These things can be overcome, but it takes effort. Jay (!) Smooth says its like brushing your teeth. Your teeth don’t stay clean on their own, keeping them clean takes effort.

    The effort is worth it. My life is enriched by people like Willie Mays (my wife met him once!) and Reggie Jackson, and the non-celebrity black people that have been part of my life.

    I just want to remind and exhort my fellow white people that it takes work, so do the work. Focus less on shaming other white people and more on leading them. Let’s talk about what we get for our work, which is that we get to have Willie Mays in our life. And so on.

  3. DK says:

    A sobering reality-check to realize Reggie Jackson’s tomentors includes folks who are still atound. And voting.

    Willie Mays is gone. That’s bitter news. What a man.

  4. Stormy Dragon says:

    likewise, America writ large has made important strides

    Has it made great strides, or has it just been dragged quite a ways?

  5. SenyorDave says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Mostly dragged, but not so far as to prevent an obvious bigot from having a very good chance of being the next president. And to his supporters his bigotry is a feature, not a bug.

  6. Modulo Myself says:

    Your co-blogger finds himself happily reading Andrew Sullivan, who is a flat-out eugenicist. In 1967, plenty of white people were the same: overt n-word bad but reasonably dressed up n-word good. We’ve maybe dealt with the overt n-word side. The reasonable n-word side lives on and it’s considered a bit too much to challenge its sway.

  7. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Strides/dragged, potayto/potauto. Progress, by any means is still progress.

  8. Mister Bluster says:

    1964 was not that long ago either.
    Revisit the Stories of Three Young Civil Rights Workers, Killed 60 Years Ago Today During Freedom Summer
    James Chaney 21, Michael Schwerner 24, Andrew Goodman 21
    Murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.

  9. JKB says:

    No, not that long ago, but a decade more distant than 1967 was from Democrat Woodrow Wilson imposing segregation on the federal workforce. Or when Wilson forced the highest ranking black army officer into retirement rather than promoting him to flag rank.

    Further than when Democrat FDR imposed redlining of home loans and sales.

  10. Tony W says:

    @JKB: Ooh! Now do Trump.

    Oh, and Wilson died in 1924, so WTF are you talking about?

  11. EddieInCA says:

    Well, I would never compare what I have encountered anywhere close to what African-Americans have endured. I myself was the victim of strong racism in Alabama and Mississippi when locals overheard me speaking in Spanish to my mother on my cell phone.


  12. Beth says:

    I watched an uncensored version of that clip with my son. He’s 11 and just starting to understand what’s going on around him on a deeper level. Everytime Mr. Jackson said the N word my son flinched like he was experiencing a profoundly awful wrong.

    They shouldn’t censor that clip. That shouldn’t be made comfortable for White People. Especially people my age and younger.

    In a similar vein, my son has been saying ignorant things about Pride. Stupid starter incel Joe Rogan type stupidity. I’m planning on taking him to the parade here on the 30th. He’s going to learn that whether he’s queer or straight, this is his heritage. And it take work to prevent him from picking up that awful crap from kids his age and youtube.

    The world is terrible, it’s our job to make it better.

  13. @JKB: Yes, and those things were very, very wrong.

    This isn’t about stupid, crude point-scoring based on party labels.

  14. I am astonished (at least in some ways) that contemporary conservatives think that pointing out there were lots of racist Democrats in the past is some kind of gotcha.

    “The KKK was full of Democrats!” No shit, Sherlock.

  15. @EddieInCA: I am both very sorry to hear you dealt with that and not surprised to hear it happened.

    @Beth: Agreed on the bleeping.

  16. Slugger says:

    It is heart rendering to listen to Reggie’s story. But Reggie was an exceptional outstanding success and had a life of fame and fortune. Try to imagine the experiences that an ordinary man in Alabama went through. We need to hear from a ordinary worker, a woman working in a laundry, a schoolteacher, etc to get a taste of what it meant to be African American just yesterday. And let’s not mock JKB too much. Racism is deeply embedded in our nation and other countries; it’s not just those red-necks in the South. Democrats are not immune. You and I are not immune.
    I visited Birmingham about ten years ago. I have relative who has deeply held racist ideas but would never say the N word. I sent his son a patch of the Tuskegee Airmen which is a very cool emblem. His son likes military memorabilia.

  17. DK says:

    @JKB: More recently than 1960s or the 1940s, Republican (and rapist convicted felon) Donald Trump retweeted a video of a supporter yelling, “White power!” on 28 June 2020. He also became the first president in fifty years to appoint zero black circuit judges.

    Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly reported Trump saying Hitler “did some good things.” Trump’s first wife said he kept a book of Hitler’s speeches at his bedside, and just a few months ago Trump posted a video calling for an American “reich.”

    A former Apprentice producer recalls Trump using racial slurs to refer to blacks, and we all recall Trump repeatedly lying that the first black president was born in Kenya.

    All this, while Trump leads a party that supports monuments to pro-slavery Confederate traitors, that bans black history and books by black authors, and that is down in Florida claiming blacks benefited from slavery.

    But we’ll be sure not to vote for Woodrow Wilson or FDR in 2024.

  18. DK says:


    And let’s not mock JKB too much.

    Fascism-enabling dirtbag JKB and everyone else simping for the orange thug who declined to mitigate a catastrophic virus because he thought it would only kill urban blacks can choke on my blk c*** and rot. It’s 2024. They have earned no grace from me.

    My ancestors had no choice but to genuflect before these human garbage cans. The least I can do is give them the hell my forebears could not.

  19. Mikey says:

    @JKB: So what? Democrats of the past did shitty racist things. Nobody denies it.

    Today they would be Republicans. This isn’t 1940-something or 1960-something. It’s 2024, and Republicans are the party of racism in 2024.

  20. Jc says:

    Alabama did not even repeal it’s law against interracial marriage until the year 2000. 33 years after Supreme Court ruling…and it still only garnered 60% in the YEAR 2000! I think that tells you exactly just how long it will take for the ignorance to die off. My guess, easily another 100 years.

  21. Jc says:

    Not that long ago, like 1984, a Republican deity stated “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally,” Imagine him saying that to his party today. Whataboutisms…smh

  22. JohnSF says:

    I may be an ignorant Brit, but even I’m aware that Wilson, for all his idealistic politics, in the context of the time, was a racist.
    The historical evolution of the Democratic Party to that date, made that almost inevitable.

    It was the sequence of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and, above all, that great but massively flawed man, Lyndon Johnson, that fundamentally altered the Democrats position on racial equality.

    And the shame of the Republican Party, after the New Deal, and still more after the Civil Rights Act, that it increasingly inclined to compromise with racism to garner the votes of the Dixiecrats etc, and propagandized moderate social reform and race/class equality as being “anti-Christian communism”.

  23. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Mister Bluster: And yet, only a decade and a half later, Ronaldus Magnus gave a speech in Philadelphia, MS, proclaiming his love for “states’ right.” Presumably that included the right to murder “outside agitators.”

  24. DAllenABQ says:

    @DK: There is poetry in this anger. Beautiful.

  25. @Paul L.: Please stay on topic.

  26. DK says:

    @Paul L.: Womp womp.

  27. Franklin says:

    @Jc: What the actual f***. Less than 60%, to be precise.

    But calling Alabama a backwards state is insulting and only 40% true. I wonder what the vote would be today …


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