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Stolen Dreams, by Chris Lamb

University of Nebraska Press9781496219459

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When the eleven- and twelve-year-olds on the Cannon Street YMCA All-Star team registered for a baseball tournament in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 1955, it put the team and the forces of integration on a collision course with segregation, bigotry, and the southern way of life. White teams refused to take the field with the Cannon Street All-Stars, the first Black Little League team in South Carolina. The Cannon Street team won the tournament by forfeit and advanced to the state tournament. When all the white teams withdrew in protest, the Cannon Street team won the state tournament. If the team had won the regional tournament in Rome, Georgia, it would have advanced to the Little League World Series. But Little League officials ruled the team ineligible to play in the tournament because it had advanced by winning on forfeit and not on the field, denying the boys their dream of playing in the Little League World Series. Little League Baseball invited the Cannon Street All-Stars to be the organization’s guests at the World Series, where they heard spectators yell, “Let them play! Let them play!” when the ballplayers were introduced. This became a national story for a few weeks but then faded and disappeared as Americans read of other civil rights stories, including the torture and murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till.

Stolen Dreams is the story of the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars and of the early civil rights movement. It’s also the story of centuries of bigotry in Charleston, South Carolina—where millions of enslaved people were brought to this country and where the Civil War began, where segregation remained for a century after the war ended and anyone who challenged it did so at their own risk.