Joe Louis and the Struggle of African American Golfers for Visibility and Access


This study examines the role of Joe Louis in stimulating greater interest in golf among African Americans during his reign as world heavyweight boxing champion (1937-1949) and in joining the fight to end discrimination in golf after his retirement from boxing. During his boxing career, Louis promoted golf by participating in golf tournaments as an amateur player, employing black golf professionals as his personal golf tutors, organizing his own national tournament, and creating opportunities for interracial golf competition. Failing to achieve success in creating access for black golfers to play in the prestigious, all-white, PGA golf tournaments, Louis became more aggressive in these efforts and joined the movement to end racial discrimination in the sport. While achieving limited success, Joe Louis is credited with contributing to the initial steps in removing racial barriers in golf, which eventually led to removal of the infamous “Caucasian-only” clause from the PGA constitution, thus, paving the way for Charlie Sifford and other African Americans to attain full PGA membership.



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