Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters: The Struggle over Segregated Recreation in America

Victoria W. Wolcott. Univ. of Pennsylvania, $34.95 trade paper (328p) ISBN 978-0-8122-4434-2
With a stated focus of "stories on the local level", history professor Wolcott (Remaking Respectability) recounts a staggering litany of large and small-scale protests and riots at recreational facilities across the United States from the 1930s through the 1960s. Wolcott aims to make the case that the struggle to desegregate recreational facilities is an often overlooked but essential facet of the American Civil Rights narrative. Nonviolent direct action takes center stage as the author highlights the bravery of protestors crossing the color line at segregated skating rinks, swimming pools, beaches and parks. Together the stories reveal a national pattern of White violence against protestors and illuminate the shameful tactics employed by recreation facility owners to subvert the growing demand for desegregation. The quantity of Wolcott's local examples can be distracting, bogging down the narrative and diminishing the clarity of the book's central themes. She does make clear, however, that the story does not have a happy ending: the final chapter deals with the ultimate decimation of the urban recreation system, as urban proprietors choose to sell their facilities, or let them run to ruin, rather than invest in creating an inviting space for African American customers. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 12/10/2012
Release date: 08/01/2012
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-8122-2328-6
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