Last week I spent some time talking about what historians can do over the winter break. Today I’d like to continue in that vein, but with an eye towards the new year. Consider this space a place for us to think, out loud, about what we want to read and research about in 2014. Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable talking about that publicly, I completely understand. Nonetheless, I find myself wanting to organize my thoughts while there’s still a few days left in 2013 about what I’d like to accomplish next year.
The year 2013 has allowed me to explore the ideas of American intellectual history in a way I never expected. While I don’t want to become too autobiographical on this blog, I just want to make it clear that my fellow bloggers, along with all the commenters here, have helped me think about various avenues in intellectual history that, frankly, I don’t think I would have discovered without your help. For that all of you have my everlasting gratitude. While I strive to be a scholar of post-1945 American history, it’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve learned a great deal about that, and other topics while participating in this blog.
With all that said, I want to look forward to 2014. Something that I’m already invested in is the history of sport in America. A few days ago, Rivka Maizlish used the blog as an opportunity to talk about a topic that, while not her primary research interest, is one that’s still important to her. Like Maizlish, and I know like many of us on this blog, I have my own interests that (seemingly) line up outside of my primary work. In my case, I’ve debated with myself and colleagues the utility of sport history, and whether it’s something I want to pursue. Already, fantastic scholars such as Adrian Burgos have done a great deal to detail the history of various American sports, and capture their importance to American society and culture. Here at the blog I’ve offered a few thoughts on the intersection of sport history and civil religion.
In some sense, Black American intellectual history offers some avenues in terms of talking about sport history. The tangled relationship between Paul Robeson and Jackie Robinson, for example, showcased the ways in which race, politics, and sports could come together in times of trial. The split between pro-integration Black American liberals and moderates, against those Black Americans of the far Left such as Robeson, was never clearer than in this incident. But I’d certainly like to dive more into the topic of sports and intellectual history, and a goal of mine will be to sound off on the blog about those topics as time and research permit.
Researching the post-1945 era offers its own set of potential research questions. When it comes to the realm of sport history and intellectual history, in fact, I’ve found myself asking the same question for the last year: how did professional and collegiate sports shape the “New South” of the 1960s and 1970s? From my start in a doctoral program, I’ve always entertained researching the rise of professional sports in the city of Atlanta in the 1960s. It’s been covered to some extent elsewhere, but I’d like to put it within the wider context of not just the Civil Rights Movement (which is a natural choice), but also within the rise of the Sun Belt as an economic and political force. At the same time, the rise of the Braves and the Falcons in Atlanta, coupled with the Dolphins in Miami and the Saints in New Orleans, could provide some food for thought in regards to Southern intellectual thought in the 1960s.
Even if it doesn’t enter the realm of intellectual history per se, sport history in the American South in the 1960s and 1970s still offers plenty to think about in regards to the racial, social, and economic history of the South and the nation at large. As I research other topics, namely the relationship between liberalism, conservatism, and Black intellectuals in the 1970s and 1980s, I’ll also keep an eye out on sport history and its relationship to intellectual and cultural development after the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The worse thing that can happen, after all, is that I learn something new.
 One good place to start if you’re interested in this particular topic is Ronald Smith’s Journal of Sport History article, “The Paul Robeson—Jackie Robinson Saga and a Political Collision,” Vol. 6, No. 2 (Summer 1979), 5-27.