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A Tremendous New Book

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From time to time, we like to pass things on to you, like sites we admire or books we enjoy. And when a book is both well-written and important, it's a double pleasure. So we're really happy to be able to recommend Across The Line, a new book by DBR contributor Barry Jacobs. Barry tells the stories of the first African-American players at each ACC and SEC school, and the stories are powerful and often stunning. These guys paid a high price to be pioneers.

We were given the chance to read a few chapters before the book was complete, and what we read packed in heartbreak, courage, and the knowledge everything that was gained came with a price and there was something lost as well.

Duke readers will likely turn to the story of C.B. Claiborne first. It wasn't Duke's finest hour in many respects. Claiborne never felt at home at Duke and ended up spending a lot of time at Central, even getting a meal card there. He wasn't entirely accepted by his teammates, and wasn't even told about the basketball banquet, which was held at Hope Valley Country Club, then segregated. Vic Bubas, who was so far ahead of the curve in so many ways, said he didn't realize this had hurt Claiborne.

It's a telling anecdote and unfortunately not unusual. And actually, as far as it goes, Claiborne's path at Duke was easier in many respects than some other guys had at other schools, and there is a distinction to be made about how things were on campus and how things were on the road. As difficult a time as Claiborne had, a lot of what happened at Duke (not all though) was relatively passive racism. Some of the players had to deal with the most vile sort of racism during road games. The accounts boggle the mind.

As far as Duke goes, after you read Claiborne's account, it's clear, to us anyway, that the university let him down in a big way, and moreover, that the school has never really addressed what happened. And while it wasn't as bad as what happened at some SEC schools, it was bad enough, and it clearly hurt and continues to hurt.

We would really hope Duke would make a serious effort to go back and right this wrong. In some meaningful way, Claiborne should be, as much as possible at this late date, made whole and if it is possible, he should be brought back into the Duke family. How? We don't know. His jersey being honored? A Claiborne scholarship? A public mea culpa, preferably in Cameron, would be a good start.

He may not even want to be part of it, but Duke should make every effort to reach out to him and to make things right. Read the book and see if you don't agree. Barry is a friend and a contributor to DBR, but that's not why we urge you to read this book. We do so because it's an important, disturbing, and fascinating read, and one that you'll think about long after you've put it down.