Egalitarianism and separatism : a history of approaches in the provision of public recreation and leisure service for blacks, 1906-1972 Public Deposited


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  • 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 and democracy. 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. Conclusions From the findings of this study, the following conclusions were drawn: 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 recreation. 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 service. 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 intergroup relations. 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.
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