Sports have been a part of human societies since the time of the ancient Greeks. Historians have studied sport from a variety of angles including how it influences social movements and change. This paper explores the influence that sports have on two social movements, specifically in combating racial segregation and discrimination. Chapter One is an evaluation of sport’s role in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and Chapter Two explores the role that Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball played in the American struggle for racial equality. In Chapter Three, this paper argues that the unique aspects of sports create the conditions for this progressive change. The in depth evaluation of the role of sports in each movement provides a different and interesting perspective to how sports can be used in a variety of ways to achieve similar goals. Primary newspaper and biographical sources as well as scholarly secondary works tell the narrative of both movements and the influence that sports had on each. In both cases sport played an important role in the eventual success of the movements. Sport is uniquely suited to be a precursor to and potential driver of social change for multiple reasons, including its ability to transcend racial and class boundaries, its creation of leaders, and the variety of flexible ways that it can be used to promote change.


King, Shannon



Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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