Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City

3.62 avg rating
( 39 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9781609611842: Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City
View all copies of this ISBN edition:
 
 

In 1957, nine African American teenagers faced angry mobs and the resistance of a segregationist governor to claim their right to educational equality. The bravery of the Little Rock Nine, as they became known, captured the country's imagination and made history but created deep scars in the community.

Jay Jennings, a veteran sportswriter and native son of Little Rock, returned to his hometown to take the pulse of the city and the school as the fiftieth anniversary of the integration fight approached. He found a compelling story in the school's football team, where black and white students came together under longtime coach Bernie Cox, whose philosophy of discipline and responsibility and punishing brand of physical football know no color. A very private man, Cox nevertheless allowed Jennings full access to the team, from a preseason program in July through the Tigers' final game in November.

In the season Jennings masterfully chronicles, the coach finds his ideas sorely tested in his attempts to unify the team, and the result is a story brimming with humor, compassion, frustration, and honesty. Carry the Rock tells the story of the dramatic ups and downs of a high school football season, and it reveals a city struggling with its legacy of racial tension and grappling with complex, subtle issues of contemporary segregation. What Friday Night Lights did for small-town Texas, Carry the Rock does for the urban south and for any place like Little Rock, where sports, race, and community intersect.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Jay Jennings is a former writer for Sports Illustrated and has contributed to publications from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to Vogue and Entertainment Weekly. He lives in Little Rock, AR.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1

THE DISTANT GOAL

AS THE BALL WAS SNAPPED, KE'WON JONES, one of Central's cornerbacks, backpedaled in quick, choppy steps. The Catholic High receiver broke toward the sideline and Jones pivoted off his right foot, turning to run back and looking over his right shoulder to gauge the angle of intersection between ball, receiver, and sideline. The move was second nature by now, the ninth game of the season. He'd been burned once already tonight--Senior Night, his last home game as a Little Rock Central High Tiger football player--and no one was going to get by him again.

Catholic, the Tigers' fiercest in-town rival, had just recovered a fumble at the Central 37 with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. That mistake, with Catholic leading 27-21, seemed to have ended Central's chances of coming back from a twenty-point second-half deficit. Two running plays gained the Rockets a first down. A few more such plays--Catholic had moved the ball easily for three quarters--would bring the clock closer to zero, and the Rockets closer to a playoff spot that was practically guaranteed to the winner, who would go to 6-3 for the season as the loser dropped to 5-4. Instead, Catholic went for the kill with a long pass down the Central sideline.

The Rockets had thrown for three touchdowns, victimizing the secondary as Russellville High had earlier in the year in a 23-0 shutout, the Tigers' worst loss in a decade. That game had been acutely embarrassing for the players, the coaches, and the parents, one of whom had nearly come to blows with two other fans in the stands. The shame and shock of the loss had stemmed not just from the team's No. 1 ranking in the preseason, but also from the Tigers' history as the reigning dynasty of Arkansas high school football, owners of thirty-two state championships in more than a hundred years of play.

The year 2007 was supposed to be Central's year in any number of ways. A host of starters were returning from a young team that had gone through the conference schedule undefeated the season before and then lost in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual state champion. Moreover, all during the fall, the school had been the focus of attention, both in the community and in the national media, arising from the fiftieth anniversary of its integration. Some of the players proudly wore T-shirts bearing the commemoration logo under their pads. But the promise of achieving some kind of salutary symmetry with the 1957 team, an all-white squad that had produced an undefeated season amid the racial turmoil, hadn't been answered. The 2007 team hadn't lived up to expectations.

After the terrible loss to Russellville, defensive backs coach Darrell Seward had told the secondary, "There's only one way to say it: We have sucked this year." Part of the failing was due to personnel problems. The team's best athlete, safety Kaelon Kelleybrew, had missed several games, including the Russellville loss, and other d-backs had suffered injuries. Even so, the secondary had underperformed. On the Friday of the Catholic game, as Jones and some other football players left their stagecraft class being held behind the auditorium's proscenium--a class in which only nose guard Quinton Brown was applying himself, conceiving a set for Women of Troy--Jones glanced at the words he'd lettered earlier in the year on the back of a scenery scrim: "K. Jones #6 'Shutdown.'" The self-awarded nickname had been more of a hope than a reality up to that point.

But on this late October night, as the ball hung in the galaxy of lights above the seventy-one-year-old Quigley Stadium, K. Jones saw that its trajectory was off--the pass was badly overthrown, or perhaps was intended to go out of bounds but had not been thrown far enough. In any case, Jones ignored the receiver and tracked the ball as it descended toward the sideline. At his own 5-yard line, he leapt and caught the ball above his head. His left foot came down on the 3-yard line and his right crossed in front of it, landing inches inbounds at the 2. As he brought the ball into his gut to secure the interception, he stepped out at his own 1-yard line, right in front of the Central student section, which erupted. The players also burst into cheers, some even raising both arms in a gesture that mimicked a touchdown signal. The reality, however, was that the Tigers remained ninety-nine yards away from the goal line, as far away as they could be from a touchdown.

The offense trotted into its own end zone, and the bulbs on the scoreboard at the other end looked distant and dim. Above the numbers reporting the six-point difference, the players could see the painted sign identifying the structure as Quigley Stadium, named for an early Central coach, Earl Quigley, and below it--but for some reason in larger letters--the grass they stood on as Bernie Cox Field. From his position on the sidelines, head coach Bernie Cox himself looked on.

It was a field he sometimes walked and pulled weeds from, as if it were his own well-tended front yard, but if Cox accepted and appreciated such honors, he didn't relish or encourage them. This one had been planned in 2005, the year before he was elected to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, by Kevin Crass, a Little Rock lawyer whose son had played for Cox. Now a brass plaque with his etched likeness, a stern visage one could imagine as Mark Antony, was screwed to a pillar in the stadium's concourse, reading in part: "A man of high moral character, he has been a great teacher of life's lessons to his players. Former players routinely state their gratitude for the impact Coach Cox had upon their lives. Parents of his players see firsthand this impact upon their sons."

The plaque was about the only cosmetic improvement Quigley Stadium had seen in many years. The slightest rain left pools of water on the main-level concession area and in the locker rooms below the east stands. A pigeon infestation among the concrete supports over the concourse kept the cleaning staff occupied. The coaches met in the same one-room office from which Clyde Van Sickle, a former Green Bay Packers guard, had run the team in the brand-new, Works Progress Administration-built stadium after he took over the head coach's job in 1936. At that time, it was a marvel of modernity, the largest football facility in the state. Since Bernie Cox had arrived in 1972 as an assistant, the walls of the office, he estimated, had been painted twice--both times in a Tiger old gold that has since faded to Dijon mustard. When he ascended to head coach in 1975, he moved approximately six feet away from the assistant coaches' table to the room's only desk, next to a big window that looked out into the locker room.

For thirty-two years, his stare had struck fear in the hearts of players tough enough to make it in the NFL and smart enough to become surgeons. Damien Lee, a Division I college prospect at tight end, said that once, during a busy class changeover, Cox tripped going up the school's front steps, his armload of books spilling around him. "It was like time stopped," Lee said. "Nobody moved. I didn't know whether to go help him or not." Cox retrieved his books and went on his way. "Nobody laughed or said anything like they would have with anybody else."

Fifty years before, those front steps and their surroundings were the stage upon which one of the country's great civil rights dramas was enacted. The graceful sloping lawn and reflecting pool, the false portico supporting the name LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL, and the soaring collegiate gothic tower filled television screens, newspaper front pages, and magazine covers, serving as the backdrop for a real-life morality play.

No one had expected that there would be significant problems with desegregation in Little Rock. The city's reputation as a place with moderate views on race relations, especially among its community leaders, seemed to bode well for peaceful adherence to the law decided in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. The second Brown decision, which came to be known as Brown II and was handed down in 1955, added the provision that desegregation should proceed "with all deliberate speed"--four words that have befuddled constitutional scholars for years--but left specific remedies largely to the discretion of local districts. Future cases would determine "whether the action of school authorities constitutes good faith implementation."

After the Supreme Court's first ruling, officials in Little Rock set right to work, resignedly, devising a plan of token compliance. Conceived largely by superintendent of schools Virgil Blossom, a hulking former college football player whose girth and sometimes autocratic manner belied his dainty name, the program originally called for integrating at the elementary school level before gradually moving up to the high schools. Over the year between the two Brown decisions, his proposal was turned on its head, starting with one high school, Central High, and trickling down over the next seven years to the lower grades. It also became more restrictively cautious, whittling down, through screening and interviews, the initial list of seventy black candidates requesting transfer into Central to the famous nine. They were the best and brightest, superior students of good character who knew they were taking a moral and political as well as a personal and educational stand: Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls.

For some black leaders, nine was not enough. The primary voice protesting Blossom's minimalist start came from the Arkansas Council on Human Relations, a biracial organization whose members included the progressive editor Harry Ashmore of the Arkansas Gazette; Daisy Bates, then of the NAACP and later the chief mentor of the Little Rock Nine; and a young black attorney named John Walker, the group's associate director. Colbert Cartwright, a Disciples of Christ minister who was the chairman of the board of the organization, contended that under the Blossom plan, "every effort was being made to keep the number of Negroes entering white schools to a minimum."

Though segregationists had held noisy rallies all year, the elite of Little Rock seemed to discount their influence and underestimated the growing class resentment. "Apparently not until August 1957 did city officials formulate even a meager . . . plan for maintaining order in the Central High School area," wrote historian Numan V. Bartley in 1966. The school board members, as well as most of the city's business leaders, lived in the affluent Heights area, and their children would be attending Hall High, to be newly opened, unintegrated, in 1957. That left the burden of desegregation to be imposed on the mostly middle-and lower-class families remaining at Central, groups with whom governor Orval Faubus felt some kinship.

On Labor Day, the day before classes were to begin, Little Rockians returning home from a last gasp of summer at Lake Hamilton or the newly created Lake Ouachita in Hot Springs might have noticed caravans of National Guard troops descending on the city, headed for Central High. Faubus had ordered them there, as he stated in a televised address that night, to "protect the lives and property of citizens," but he added that that might not be possible "if forcible integration is carried out tomorrow." His language was oblique, and he insisted that the matter was still a local one, but his words and actions fired segregationist resistance.

By the next morning, a crowd of four hundred to five hundred people had gathered at the school, along with Little Rock police and 270 soldiers. Concurrently, legal efforts by white groups to stop integration had been brought in several local courts, and, finally, after weighing the potential for trouble, the school board itself had asked for a delay. Under instructions from Blossom, all black students (and black employees) stayed away from Central High on the first day of school, "until this dilemma is legally resolved." Later that day, federal judge Ronald N. Davies, on a temporary appointment from North Dakota to help reduce the caseload in Arkansas, ruled that integration must proceed.

On Wednesday, September 4, the crisis got its iconographic moment. Late Tuesday night, Bates had instructed the nine students to meet before school the next morning at her home, where a phalanx of black and white ministers, whose presence she hoped might shield them from potential trouble, would escort them to the school. The family of fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford didn't have a phone, and, in the confusion of the events of the next morning, she was not informed of the plan. She took a city bus to the corner of Park and Twelfth Streets, two blocks north of the school.

A crowd of two hundred white protesters was waiting for her opposite the school, waving Confederate flags and Nigger Go Home! signs and yelling "Go back where you came from!" If she felt initial comfort at the sight of the National Guard troops, it turned to fear and confusion when she saw the soldiers parting for white students approaching the building but raising their guns and blocking her way as she followed the same path. Barred from entering, she crossed in front of the school toward the bus stop at Sixteenth Street for the return trip home, and photographer Will Counts of the Arkansas Democrat caught the stoicism of her face behind her big, tortoise-shell sunglasses as she walked away from the jeering mob, a picture of vulnerability and courage amid apoplectic anger. The image would introduce Little Rock's dilemma to the nation and the world.

"For two months, Little Rock would have a firm grip on page one," wrote the authors of The Race Beat, an exploration of press coverage of the civil rights movement. After more legal jockeying, on September 20, Faubus removed the National Guard under court order, and five days later, after the black students faced a mob of some one thousand outside the school with only Little Rock police for protection, president Dwight Eisenhower federalized the Guard and called in the 101st Airborne Division to help ensure the nine students' entrance and future safety.

For the rest of the fall, as the soldiers remained at "Fort Central" and escorted the black students in and out of the building and from class to class, the nine precariously tried to balance the ordinary anxieties and activities of high school with the controversy swirling around them. The security detail could not prevent them from being harassed by a persistent group of tormentors.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9781605296371: Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  1605296376 ISBN 13:  9781605296371
Publisher: Rodale Books, 2010
Hardcover

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Jennings, Jay
Published by Rodale Books
ISBN 10: 1609611845 ISBN 13: 9781609611842
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Booklot COM LLC
(Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Rodale Books. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 1609611845. Seller Inventory # Z1609611845ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 7.96
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

2.

Jennings, Jay
Published by Rodale Books
ISBN 10: 1609611845 ISBN 13: 9781609611842
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Vital Products COM LLC
(Southampton, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Rodale Books. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 1609611845. Seller Inventory # Z1609611845ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 8.82
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

3.

Jennings, Jay
Published by Rodale Books
ISBN 10: 1609611845 ISBN 13: 9781609611842
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Bookhouse COM LLC
(Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Rodale Books. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 1609611845. Seller Inventory # Z1609611845ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 8.82
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

4.

Jennings, Jay
Published by Rodale Books
ISBN 10: 1609611845 ISBN 13: 9781609611842
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
BookShop4U
(PHILADELPHIA, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Rodale Books. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 1609611845. Seller Inventory # Z1609611845ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 8.82
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

5.

Jennings, Jay
Published by Rodale Books
ISBN 10: 1609611845 ISBN 13: 9781609611842
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Qwestbooks COM LLC
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Rodale Books. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 1609611845. Seller Inventory # Z1609611845ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 8.82
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

6.

Jennings, Jay
Published by Rodale Books
ISBN 10: 1609611845 ISBN 13: 9781609611842
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
InstaShip Books
(Charlotte, NC, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Rodale Books. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 1609611845 New Book. Purchased from Sale Table at local book retailer(all new books). I have examined all aspects of this volume and find no flaws whatsoever. (Note:Your Satisfaction is Guaranteed. If you are not completely happy, we will refund your money immediately.no questions asked. Books purchased before 11am EST normally shipped same day.). Seller Inventory # K6X06XX0004

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 4.89
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

7.

Jennings, Jay
Published by Rodale Books
ISBN 10: 1609611845 ISBN 13: 9781609611842
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Best Bates
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Rodale Books. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 1609611845. Seller Inventory # Z1609611845ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 10.96
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

8.

Jennings, Jay
Published by Rodale Books
ISBN 10: 1609611845 ISBN 13: 9781609611842
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Mega Buzz
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Rodale Books. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 1609611845. Seller Inventory # Z1609611845ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 11.34
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

9.

Jennings, Jay
Published by Rodale Books 2011-08-30 (2011)
ISBN 10: 1609611845 ISBN 13: 9781609611842
New Paperback Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
Ebooksweb COM LLC
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Rodale Books 2011-08-30, 2011. Paperback. Condition: New. 1609611845. Seller Inventory # Z1609611845ZN

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 11.64
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

10.

Jennings Jay
Published by Penguin Random House
ISBN 10: 1609611845 ISBN 13: 9781609611842
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
INDOO
(Avenel, NJ, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Random House. Condition: New. Brand New. Seller Inventory # 1609611845

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 9.30
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.60
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book