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Award-winning journalist Dirk Chatelain uncovers the mystery of Omaha’s greatest generation of athletes. They rose out of segregation as racial tensions in north O boiled hotter and hotter. During the civil rights era, they ascended to national prominence – Bob Boozer, Gale and Roger Sayers, Marlin Briscoe, Ron Boone, Johnny Rodgers and Bob Gibson.
The stories are distinct, but their origin is the same: a neighborhood so vibrant, so unified that individual accomplishments and devastations touched every house from Tech High to Kountze Park. A neighborhood where, depending on the night, they might see Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Ray Charles, James Brown, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens or Jackie Robinson – just walking down 24th Street. A neighborhood despite its humble size and remote location in middle America, became a progressive beacon in the national protest movement, recognized by would-be presidents and would-be revolutionaries.
Omaha’s black athletes of the 1950s and ’60s were driven by ruthless, tireless mentors; nurtured by a fanatical rec sport culture; sharpened by hundreds of talented peers, most of whom didn’t become famous. Together in triumph, they put North Omaha on the sports map. This book shares their stories and the story of North Omaha through text and over 150 photos uncovered in Omaha World-Herald archives.