________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 12 . . . .February 8, 2008


Choice of Colours: The Pioneering African-American Quarterbacks Who Changed the Face of Football. (Recordbooks).

John Danakas.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2007.
119 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55028-991-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55028-993-0 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Quarterbacks (Football)-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.
African American football players-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-10 / Ages 10-15.

Review by Val Ken Lem.

*** /4



In 1950s America, racism was part of everyday life. African-Americans were denied many basic rights. In the South, blacks could not eat at white-owned restaurants. They couldn't stay at white-owned hotels or drink from "whites-only" water fountains.


Danakas provides historical and social context for the racial discrimination faced by African American football players and other professional athletes in the USA. Bernie Custis played well as quarterback in college, but when he was drafted in 1951 into the NFL, he was told that the league was not ready for a black quarterback. Unwilling to settle for a less prestigious position, he made a life-changing decision to emigrate to Canada where racism was not as pronounced. He signed on with the Hamilton Ti-Cats of the Canadian Football League, and in his first season was allowed to play the leadership position that he loved, quarterback.

     In the 1960s, a few more African American quarterbacks made their way to Canada and the CFL in order to play the position that was their specialty. In 1972, no American NFL team was willing to draft a black quarterback, not even one who had a perfect record in high school and university football. Chuck Ealey, like Bernie Custis two decades earlier, found new opportunities with the CFL and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He went on to lead his team to victory in the Grey Cup final that year.

      Other CFL teams were soon signing up other skilled African American quarterbacks including Jimmy Jones, Condredge Holloway, and Warren Moon. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Moon led the Edmonton Eskimos to five consecutive Grey Cup victories and shattered many records in the process. Finally, the NFL abandoned its racist policy of denying blacks a chance to play quarterback. Moon became the highest paid football player in history when he signed with a NFL team and went on to set more records.

      Custis, Moon and others were, as the subtitle on the cover identifies them, the pioneering African-American quarterbacks who changed the face of football. They changed the face of football both in Canada and the United States.

      Danakas is a successful children's novelist. In Choice of Colours, he creates a very readable work that will appeal to sports enthusiasts and young social scientists. He provides a two-page summary of Football Basics that clearly outlines the nature of the game and highlights terms like offence, defence, play and convert that appear in the book. A brief glossary explains some additional terms including draft and racial segregation. His acknowledgements include books and websites. Other features are four black and white photographs and seven sidebars that present historical miscellanea related to the game.

Highly Recommended.

Val Ken Lem is a member of the Collection Services Team at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON, and liaison librarian for history, English and Caribbean studies.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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