A book on the racial integration of college sports in the South has won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. The winning book is Andrew Maraniss’ Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South (Vanderbilt University Press, 2014). It was the first book dealing with sports to be honored in the 35-year history of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.
Perry Wallace, who played basketball at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, beginning in 1967, was the first African American athlete to play a full season in any sport in the Southeastern Conference. Wallace was subjected to verbal taunts and threats by opposing players and fans. He graduated from Vanderbilt in 1970 with a degree in engineering and went on to graduate from the law school at Columbia University. Wallace is currently a professor at the College of Law at American University in Washington, D.C.
The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award was established in 1980 by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. from proceeds of his best-selling book Robert Kennedy and His Times (Houghton Mifflin, 1978). The award is given to a book that “most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy’s purposes — his concern for the poor and the powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity.”