The late 1940s and '50s saw a role reversal unprecedented in the history of sport, as African-Americans—once thought incapable of physically competing against whites—began dominating playing fields to such an extent that their athletic skills soon came to be seen as their only contribution to society.
"Blacks have no chance against whites on the baseball diamond. They simply don't have what it takes to make the effort," Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey told The Boston Globe in April 1947, echoing the nation's sentiments as Jackie Robinson made his major-league debut.
But two months into the season, Yawkey gave a follow-up interview in which he once more crystallized the thoughts of white America, saying, "Well, naturally, Robinson is out there running faster, jumping higher, and hitting the ball farther. Blacks are, if nothing else, more athletically gifted than whites. Sports is what they're good at."
This changing viewpoint was soon echoed by notable sports figures, politicians, typical American citizens, Ku Klux Klan members, and University of Kentucky basketball coach Adolph Rupp, who for years had refused to recruit black players because of their alleged unsuitability for athletics. After losing the 1966 NCAA Championship game to an all-black Texas Western team, however, Rupp said that the loss didn't surprise him.
"Blacks have a clear physical advantage over whites because their years of slavery made them genetically stronger and more athletic," Rupp said after the 72-65 defeat. "But they'll never be great doctors and lawyers. They don't have the mental capacity for something like that."
"I'll put it this way," Rupp added. "We'll never see a black head coach, team owner, or president of the United States."
At the time, certain controversial figures also claimed that blacks tended to display a certain talent for music, although most of them admitted that said music was only palatable when interpreted by white American or British artists.