- The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which
the philosophy, administration and implementation of public recreation
and leisure service has contributed to the democratization of black
Americans for the period 1906-1972. The study attempted to describe
the interplay and connection between the black, subordinated community
and the dominant white public administered leisure service
organizations and how this relationship has influenced the mode of
delivery of public recreation for blacks. The study was undertaken to
help the field to more fully understand the consequences of the
democratizing effect of recreation and the apparent relationship of
continuing public recreation deprivation for black people and urban
unrest which does not fit with a consistent pattern of egalitarianism
Design of the Study
The study approach utilized the historical method which mainly
involved the data gathering of primary and pertinent secondary
material related to the provision of public recreation and leisure
service to blacks. The material used in this study was intended to
surface important developments, transitions, and approaches to
leisure service delivery in order to provide a more sound historical
base on which to make future assessments in race relations as it
applies to public recreation.
A variety of approaches was taken to gather the data analyzed in
this study. These approaches included: 1) a comprehensive investigation
of related literature; 2) interviews with experts in the field; 3) a
personal visit to the library and archives of the National Recreation
and Park Association; and 4) the solicitation of informal mail responses
from key retired officials of the National Recreation Association
and National Recreation and Park Association.
The researcher attempted to identify major phases of development
in the facilitation of public recreation opportunities for blacks
and draw relationships between major social trends as they effected
blacks and the recreation movement. These phases of development
were summarized in a model of dominant-subordinate relations. The
model synthesizes and combines the major societal patterns of
dominant-subordinate relations as they relate to blacks and whites, and the patterns of the provision of public recreation and leisure
service for blacks during the period 1906-1972.
From the findings of this study, the following conclusions were
1. While the recreation movement was initially oriented to meeting
the play needs of underprivileged urban youth, the recreation
needs of black youth were basically ignored during the
first phase (1906-1919) of black/white relations in public
2. Blacks largely accepted the rationalization for existing pattern
of recreation and leisure service during the first phase.
Blacks were Left to provide for themselves through their own
social agencies- -church, fraternal orders, etc.
3. The traditional egalitarian public recreation service principle
of "recreation for all, " was geared primarily to the
needs and interests of the dominant white population.
4. The philosophical approach of the recreation movement
incorporated the traditional assimilation concept of intergroup
relations by supporting local, regional and national dictates
in areas of social relations.
5. During the second phase (1920-1954) of black/white relations
in public recreation service, special attempts were made to
expand recreation facilities and programs for blacks, although
primarily on a segregated basis.
6. The leaders of the recreation movement accepted the segregation
of blacks as a fact of social relations and attempted
to meet their leisure needs through the Bureau of Colored
Work and special "colored" divisions of municipal recreation
service from 1920 to 1954.
7. Black people have been systematically excluded from participation
in. most community sponsored recreation programs
because: a) the all-inclusive philosophy of municipal recreation
initiated just after World War I moved the focus of
leisure service away from delivery to underprivileged youth,
and b) the various legal and extra legal discriminatory
sanctions in the area of social relations have served to
restrict black participation.
8. During the second phase two mutually exclusive paths of
segregated organized recreation. service existed. It was
during this stage a re-definition of democratic recreation
service was employed in the movement and not seen in conflict
by its leaders with the "recreation for all" concept of
9. The leaders sought to include blacks in the general offerings of the public recreation program, but did not see the separatist
paths of public recreation as not conforming to the tenets
of egalitarian service principles. Democratic recreation
service delivery was adjusted to fit local and regional
customs and legal requirements.
10. In actual operation, public recreation and leisure service has
reflected the larger pervasive societal patterns of dominant subordinate
11. The 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education,
Topeka, Kansas, precipitated the desegregation of public
recreation facilities, and eventually led to the improvement
of recreational opportunities for black people during the
third phase (1955-1965).
12. Attempts to facilitate more equal and inclusive treatment for
blacks, particularly since 1954, have been incorporated by
most leisure service agencies.
13. Attempts at separate organization, administration and
delivery of public recreation during the fourth phase (1966 to
present) of black/white relations in public recreation
emerged around 1966. These efforts have been consistent
with "black power" views for semi-autonomous control over
matters of cultural and educational concern.
14. The fourth phase of relations has been characterized by
attempts at shared black/white participation in administrative
decisions within the total municipal recreation program
and community life.
15. Blacks have been almost entirely dependent upon public
recreation offerings and leisure service. Recreation is
considered a high priority need among the urban poor.
16. The irony of the "recreation for all" approach of public
recreation, which has not worked in practice for subordinated
blacks, has been the failure of this method to advocate and
recognize the particular cultural and social needs and
interests of black people. Rioting has resulted from a lack
of sensitive dominant white response to the social needs of
black ghetto residents and the frustration of black cultural interests.