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How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier in Golf

by Nancy Churnin ; illustrated by John Joven

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-8075-1128-2
Publisher: Whitman

A biography of Charlie Sifford, the African-American man who integrated professional golf.

As a child, Charlie had to practice golf at night because black people weren’t allowed to play on private courses in 1930s Jim Crow North Carolina. So Charlie became a caddie and competed in—and won—tournaments for black players. Charlie wanted to play in the PGA, but the organization had a “Caucasians-only” rule. Joven’s art realistically portrays Charlie getting older as he moves the action forward, often using multiple illustrations per page. Light layers of color overlap, angular shapes giving the story a suitably retro look. Learning about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American in Major League Baseball, leads Charlie to hope that he can integrate golf. When Charlie meets Jackie, Jackie is honest: “It’s going to be awfully tough, Charlie.” (The dialogue throughout is unsourced.) In her straightforward, quietly passionate narrative, Churnin records how Charlie keeps playing but can’t change the racist PGA rules. Finally, a Jewish lawyer, Stanley Mosk, successfully gets the rule rescinded, and Charlie becomes the first African-American PGA player. Churnin emphasizes that that isn’t the end of the discrimination and abuse Charlie suffers—but finally, one day, he hears a new sound: encouragement from the gallery instead of boos.

A poignant and inspiring tale of a groundbreaking sports figure whose name and story should be well-known. (author’s note, timeline) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)