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Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  633 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
From Jackie Robinson to Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe, African American athletes have been at the center of modern culture, their on-the-field heroics admired and stratospheric earnings envied. But for all their money, fame, and achievement, says New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden, black athletes still find themselves on the periphery of true power in the multibilli ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 24th 2007 by Broadway Books (first published 2006)
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Sean Gibson
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reviewed for Kirkus waaaayyy back when:
This is not the book I thought it would be when I picked it out. I was expecting a book about contracts, money, recruiting, and trading. Rhodes touches on all those things, but this book is primarily a history book, drawing distant and not-explicitly-stated parallels between the slave markets at the beginning and the meat markets of college recruiting at the end. The impetus of the book was partially in response to questions like the one put the the author by an elementary school student, “Who w ...more
Sep 07, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in reading it.
Shelves: sports
This book is a must read especially for those among us who claim that these Million Dollar athletes should do more in the community. While that is a valid conversation, those same people who say this, never take the time to understand the centuries old games and institutions that are at work here. Also, why isn't this book on the New York Times Best Seller List, while Tyler Perry's "Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea's Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life " is? Just one o ...more
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very eye opening. Though the first two chapters lagged a bit, it immediately became interesting when the book delved into the Jockey Syndrome, and how the decimation of the Negro baseball leagues became a symbol of the negative effects of integration. "The Conveyor Belt" chapter (driving wedges between inner city kids and their families/communities for higher profits) is especially important for Black parents.

I would've given it five stars if more time had been spent on Black female athletes. I
The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears
Okay, let me get this off my chest first. Only ONE chapter dedicated to the presence/contributions of Black women in sports? Really? Granted, author William C. Rhoden acknowledges his lack but it doesn't excuse it, especially because his historical scholarship of Black male sports figures was so rich and detailed. Damn right, this is not only problematic but a typical narrative when it comes to documenting and acknowledging Black women's lives. We see this erasure in mainstream feminism, and it' ...more
Vannessa Anderson
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to write a review befitting this book and came up with nothing. For me, the best way for this book to be reviewed is quotes taken directly from the book.

Forty Million Dollar Slaves is an important read if we want to understand the black athlete.

“In their failure to heed the lessons of history, today’s black athletes are squandering the best opportunities yet for acquiring real power in the sports industry.” P. 2

“Ignorance of the past makes it diffi
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, best
Thought-provoking and a crucial read, especially in light of NFL kneeling protests. Rhoden does a great job of explaining how sporting events became as an outlet for slaves, how black athletes were systematically blocked out of sports as they rose to acclaim (Jockey syndrome), how black athletes are separated from the communities, the conveyor belt, etc. I really appreciated the stories about Kellen Winslow and his son (and Rick Neuheisel), Curt Flood, and Michael Jordan. At times I wished there ...more
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible book. Published 11 years ago and covers the history of black athletes beginning hundreds of years ago but its message is so important even now.
Corrie Campbell
I appreciated Rhoden’s detailed and moving history of the black athlete. He highlights the hardships, the atrocities and the spirit to which the black athlete excelled in the face of such monumental adversity. Rhoden took us from boxing in the early 19th century; to horse-racing mid-19th century; to the Negro Leagues in the mid-20th century; and up to the modern day athletes that we intimately know. From this point of view Forty Million Dollar Slave is an excellent book.

I also see no controversy
Ryan Mishap
"Integration in sports--as opposed to integration at the ballot box or in public conveyances--was a winning proposition for the whites who controlled the sports-industrial complex. They could move to exploit black muscle and talent, thus sucking the life out of black institutions, while at the same time giving themselves credit for being humanitarians."

The quote above gives you a good idea of the main argument in this book that traces black athletes from slavery to modern day sports. The title a
Jan 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot I didn't know about the history of Black athletes in the United States of America. It was a good read. It dragged sometimes but for the most part, it held my attention.

In all non-fiction books, I'm a stickler for evidence and he provided a concise list of where he got all his information in the notes and bibliography.

I give it 3.5 stars because he really did breeze over the female aspect. Also, some of the chapters were a bit long for my taste. Still it was a good read and extr
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times I felt the book wasn't as in depth as I'd like it to be but overrall I throughly enjoyed a brief look into the difficulties faced by African-Americans in sports that many currently believe they have always dominated. Raised excellent questions about the roles of African-American superstars and was quite thought-provoking - further making me wonder if you can ever truly dismantle racism in any capitalist society. Recommended.
Tippy Jackson
Nov 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture, economics
The story of Michael Jordan being shut out from ownership after coming out of retirement for the wizards was something I was completely unfamiliar with and I found it appalling. Also, this book offered an interesting perspective on the famous Jackie Robinson story and his role in baseball history. Well written and interesting, even for very non-sports following people like me.
Race is a touchy subject. The pretense of any argument about it is kind of a Catch-22. If you're white you're not allowed to comment or your opinion is of no value, which means only the minority groups get to discuss it. How are we supposed to move forward when only one group gets any say? I'm pretty sure that's how we got here in the first place. 40 Million Dollar Slaves by William C. Rhoden is a book about the black athlete and all the problems they still face today. To properly discuss the bo ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
The writer presents a provocative look at how athletes, and black athletes in general, have been exploited in the multi-billion dollar per year industry of sports. A term he continually uses throughout the book is "these athletes should be grateful for the opportunity," as echoed by the owners who make way more money off of the talent of these athletes and fans who pay to see them, is called into question. Being grateful for what actually? If athletes are performing a service for the owners who ...more
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the best books I read this year. I got introduced to this book by a recommendation from a previous book I read. It was I Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man's Education by Mychal Denzel Smith. I noticed my reading had been selective when trying to understand certain things. I came into this with an open mind and letting it provide context instead of me making it what I thought it should be. A lot of information in this book has been very well researched ...more
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This was everything I wanted this book to be. It was historical but not boring, interesting, informative, and boy, did I learn a lot. I feel like I can speak on subjects I didn't think I knew enough about before. So why only 4 stars? This book was DENSE. it took me a while to get through, especially the more historical parts at the beginning. But the first hundred pages did lay a necessary framework for the rest of the book so I did not regret it. Another thing: the chapters were not too lo ...more
J.V. Speyer
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction-reads
Forty Million Dollar Slaves gives a history of Black athletes in American professional sports. Rhoden discusses his topic from the perspective of power and influence: who has the power in each situation? Who benefits from the use of Black muscle?

Some of the insights were a little uncomfortable. That was okay with me. I’m not Black, and I’ve probably been guilty of watching professional sports with some of the attitudes expressed in Forty Million Dollar Slaves. I probably didn’t realize it at the
Diana Griffing
A passionate view into what it means and has meant to be a Black athlete in America. Disillusioning the 'inspirational' tales of Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali, and delving into the complexities of existing in a white world in a country founded on white supremacy. While celebrating victories of athletes, this book explores how sports has only desegregated the talent, while coaching, planning and management continues to be dominated by white people profiting off of the dreams of African America ...more
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was fantastic. I can't believe only 500+ reviews exist for this book. Bill Rhoden, a sports writer whom I greatly respect, takes you on a educational tour of the black athlete's history in America in several genres, from boxing, to baseball, to football, and even cycling (I learned something new there). He speakers to how white oppression and racism keeps real success and real power for the black athlete in an arms reach. This book was a revelation. It was written in 2006, but it is st ...more
Steven Yenzer
I really wanted to like this book, and I did learn a lot. However, organizational and editing issues made it a frustrating read. The chapters jumped around from topic to topic, introducing people and then reintroducing them, and sometimes never really getting around to telling their stories.

For example, O.J. pops up twice in comparison with Michael Jordan, but we never hear about his own role in the world of American sports or culture.

Overall Forty Million Dollar Slaves had a stretched-out feel,
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an engaging historical account of the history of sport for Black athletes. It presents new perspectives to such large moments in history such as Jackie Robinson's integration into Major League Baseball, the college football's recruitment process, and why some rules in sports are amended.

Accordingly, this book introduced me to concepts and topics surrounding sports with which I was otherwise unfamiliar.
Ernest Sneed
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
Thought provoking historical and economic analysis of the black athlete in American history. The author has the viewpoint that the black athlete also has a responsibility for further advancement of the African American community. He analysis of the college and pro athletic system reflects on the exploitation of labor and the exclusion of the African American athlete from ownership and power to affect his destiny and his community
La Marr
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good overview of the plight of the African American athlete, and their responsibility to build a better future for the future generation of athletes to pursue and change the current power relationship between black athlete and white owner.

Good overview of the plight of the African American athlete, and their responsibility to build a better future for the future generation of athletes to pursue and change the current power relationship between black athlete and white owner.
Roger Mckenzie
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book which sets out the grounds for the emergence of the protest led by Colin Kapernick in recent times. The Forty Million dollar slaves should have been quicker to support Kapernick - who still is being victimised for his stance and has no team to play for. It’s never too late for these sports stars to wake up and use their undoubted power to demand and win justice.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such eye-opening book!
Tavio Hobson
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As i venture into a new job I'm steady conscious of the implications of my industry. Has to be BiggerThanBasketball. Great read, Worth picking up.
Sandy III
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very powerful, an eye opened.
Sherreka Burton
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-people, pro-black
Very eye-opening! I highly recommend this, especially for younger athletes or black folks who like sports (not that I am either of those things).
Nikita T. Mitchell
Jul 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone, particularly african-american athletes for whom it is a MUST READ.
Shelves: recommendations
This book provides a great historical account of the progression of African-Americans in sports. There was so much that I never knew and that all black folks need to be knowledgeable about - particularly the athletes in our communities.

The book was supposed to provide a discussion on "The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete." While Rhoden did a phenomenal job with the "Rise" and provided great insights into the "Fall," I was hoping for a bit more for the "Redemption" aspect. He prov
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“The peculiar fascination with Davis reflected the way sports-crazed Southerners were struggling with race: On the one hand, they were steeped in the white South's revulsion at the presence of blacks, but on the other, they couldn't suppress their admiration of—and need for—the black physical presence. It was writ large in the South in 1966, but it's a paradigm that continues to define the dilemma of race and racism in sports in the United States: Behind the cheering often lurks angry resentment.” 0 likes
“Though integration was a major pivot in the history of the black athlete, it was not for the positive reasons we so often hear about. Integration fixed in place myriad problems: a destructive power dynamic between black talent and white ownership; a chronic psychological burden for black athletes, who constantly had to prove their worth; disconnection of the athlete from his or her community; and the emergence of the apolitical black athlete, who had to be careful what he or she said or stood for, so as not to offend white paymasters. (142)” 0 likes
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