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Friday, November 2, 2007

African- American Contributions to Motorsports

This is the second article in a series that chronicles the contributions of minorities to motorsports.

Many people hear the cries for more minority involvement in auto racing and fail to understand why. A common misconception is that black athletes are better suited for traditional sports and lack the knowledge necessary to participate in auto racing. Things are slowly starting to change, but there was a group of young men that dispelled this myth almost 24 years before the birth of NASCAR.

The Colored Speedway Association was a group of young black men that organized a race series for black drivers in the Midwest in 1924. This group of black businessmen and several white colleagues raised $50,000 to organize a 100 Mile Colored Speed Championship. The series featured black sprint car drivers and culminated with the annual Gold and Glory Sweepstakes at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. These drivers were prevented from racing in the Indianapolis 500 because of their skin color.

Segregation was the order of business in the 20’s and the Gold and Glory organizers tempted death on and off the track. Starting a black owned series was seen as overstepping the racial boundaries of the time. Today’s racing series need to attract more minority drivers, owners, and sponsors. First, they must acknowledge that access and education is paramount. There is minority interest in motorsports but finding ways into the industry is a tough task.

The Colored Speedway Association disbanded in 1936 but their contributions have stood the test of time. There would be no Chase Austin or Bill Lester if Wendell Scott, the only African- American to win a NASCAR race, had not followed his dream of racing.

African- Americans have a proud history in auto racing, but these stories are seldom told. The Colored Speedway Association was revolutionary and deserves a place in motorsport history. Many sports fans relate to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. However, the formation of the Colored Speedway Association was just as monumental.

Photo courtesy of Tom Stahl and WFYI Indianapolis


Stephanie said...

Thanks for this article. African American history in racing is slowly coming to light.

rookierae1 said...

Keep writing. Your comments are refreshing.