Boise State University Offers a Lesson in Black History to Jesse Jackson

Making an appearance at a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend event at Boise State University in Idaho, Jesse Jackson noted that the multiracial Boise State football team, which won the dramatic Fiesta Bowl game last month against the University of Oklahoma, would not have existed had it not been for the civil rights work of Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the civil rights movement. Jackson added that a half-century ago blacks were not permitted to play football for either Boise State or the University of Oklahoma.

Officials at Boise State were inundated with telephone calls and e-mails in the days following Jackson’s speech. Yearbooks dating to the 1940s and 1950s show black athletes at the university. In fact, Aurelius Buckner, an African-American student, played football at Boise State and was the high scorer on the basketball team in both 1944 and 1945. Lyle Smith, who coached the football team in the 1940s and 1950s, said that the university never had any stipulations that black athletes could not play. There just weren’t that many black people in Idaho in those days.