Cover image for Strong inside : the true story of how Perry Wallace broke college basketball's color line
Strong inside : the true story of how Perry Wallace broke college basketball's color line
Young readers edition.
Physical Description:
262 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes bibliographic references and index.

"Adapted for young people from Strong Inside: Percy Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South published by Vanderbilt University Press in 2014." -- verso.
A Dangerous Place -- Short 26th -- Freedom Song -- Pearl of the Community -- The Woomp Show -- Not Just Another Game -- They Had the Wrong Guy -- The Name of the Game -- Champions! -- The Promise -- The Surprise -- Dangerous Territory -- History Made Them Wrong -- Hit or Miss -- Crazy People -- Sudden Impact -- What About Justice? -- The Invisible Man -- Slammed Shut -- As Good as It Gets -- The Sudden Fall -- Nightmares -- Hate, Defeated -- A River of Tears -- Death of a Dream -- Truth to Power -- The Cruel Deception -- All Alone -- Nevermore -- Bachelor of Ugliness -- He Saved the Best for Last -- Ticket Out of Town.
Reading Level:
1170 L Lexile
Perry Wallace was born at an historic crossroads in U.S. history. He entered kindergarten the year that the Brown v. Board of Education decision led to integrated schools, allowing blacks and whites to learn side by side. A week after Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Wallace enrolled in high school and his sensational jumping, dunking, and rebounding abilities quickly earned him the attention of college basketball recruiters from top schools across the nation. In his senior year his Pearl High School basketball team won Tennessee's first racially-integrated state tournament. The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt University recruited Wallace to play basketball, he courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the Southeastern Conference. The hateful experiences he would endure on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be the stuff of nightmares. Yet Wallace persisted, endured, and met this unthinkable challenge head on. This insightful biography digs deep beneath the surface to reveal a complicated, profound, and inspiring story of an athlete turned civil rights trailblazer.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book TEEN 921 WALLACE 1 1

On Order



A young readers edition of the New York Times bestselling adult nonfiction book about the racism and obstacles faced by Perry Wallace, the first African American to play college basketball in the deeply segregated Southeastern Conference.

Perry Wallace entered kindergarten the year that Brown v. Board of Education upended "separate but equal." As a 12-year-old, he sneaked downtown to watch the sit-ins at Nashville's lunch counters. A week after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Wallace entered high school, and later saw the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. On March 16, 1966, his Pearl High School basketball team won Tennessee's first integrated state tournament-the same day Adolph Rupp's all-white Kentucky Wildcats lost to the all-black starting lineup of the Texas Western Miners in an iconic NCAA title game.

The world seemed to be opening up at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt recruited Wallace, he courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the Southeastern Conference. The hateful experiences he would endure on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be nothing like he could've ever imagined.

This thought-provoking, insightful biography digs deep beneath the surface to reveal a complicated, profound, and inspiring story of an athlete turned civil rights trailblazer.

Author Notes

Andrew Maraniss studied history at Vanderbilt University and as a recipient of the Fred Russell-Grantland Rice sportswriting scholarship, earned the school's Alexander Award for excellence in journalism. He then worked for five years in Vanderbilt's athletic department as the associate director of media relations, dealing primarily with the men's basketball team. In 1998, he served as the media relations manager for the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. The son of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling author David Maraniss and trailblazing environmentalist Linda Maraniss, Andrew was born in Madison, Wisconsin, grew up in Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas and now lives in Brentwood, Tennessee, with his wife Alison and their two young children. His first book, Strong Inside , was a New York Times bestseller.

Reviews 2

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Vanderbilt University made a strong statement in 1966 when they recruited Perry Wallace, a local teen basketball star who was African American. Students may not be familiar with Wallace, but after reading this poignant biography, they will not forget him. Readers meet him as a child whose loving family provided him with the care and attention he needed to thrive academically, then follow him onto the court, where he yearned-and then learned-to dunk. Maraniss speeds through Wallace's senior year at Pearl High, in Tennessee, where recruiters from schools across the country were eager to add him to their rosters. His years at Vanderbilt, where he broke the color barrier in the Southeastern Conference, receive the most attention, with great sports writing meeting heartfelt interludes of Wallace's efforts to bring about change for his fellow black students. Maraniss does not shy away from the ultimate truth: Wallace experienced vicious racism and countless death threats as well as racial slurs, discrimination, and unfair treatment on and off the court. Wallace is quoted abundantly throughout the text, and the bibliography is packed with primary sources, offering ample research opportunities for those compelled to dig deeper into the civil rights struggle of Wallace and other black athletes. VERDICT This portrait of the fortitude of a young athlete will make a huge impact on teens and is guaranteed to spark serious discussion.-Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* This is the inspiring true story of Perry Wallace, a member of Vanderbilt's basketball team and the first black basketball player to play in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) during the 1960s civil rights era. The road was far from easy: he received aggressive fouls that went unchallenged, was kicked out of a church, lost his mother to cancer, and his best friend and teammate, also black, was forced to quit. Readers in today's racially troubled times will recognize Wallace's plight and the isolation and loneliness he experienced. But Wallace never gave up. After his signature slam dunk was outlawed, he forced himself to become a better player. Author Maraniss doesn't shy away from the difficulties, not wanting to whitewash history by editing away the ugly epithets that plagued Wallace throughout his career. An author's note about Wallace's life after graduation, a bibliography, and black-and-white photos are all included (final source notes and index not seen). This moving biography, a young readers' edition of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South (2014), is thought-provoking, riveting, and heart-wrenching, though it remains hopeful as it takes readers into the midst of the basketball and civil rights action. Readers will celebrate Wallace's refusal to back down, and cheer as he succeeds in paving the way for future players.--Rawlins, Sharon Copyright 2017 Booklist



Dear Readers: To accurately and vividly convey the racism that Perry Wallace and others encountered during certain scenes described in this book, the derogatory language they heard at the time is included here without edits. It would be a disservice to the reader and the heroes of this story to whitewash history by sanitizing these epithets. Chapter 1 A Dangerous Place If you take a look at the Vanderbilt University basketball schedule for the 1966-67 season and search for the game dated February 27, you'll see it was the day the Vanderbilt Commodores traveled to Starkville, Mississippi, to play the Mississippi State Bulldogs. But that day meant something much different to one member of the Vanderbilt basketball team. For Perry Wallace, February 27, 1967, will always be remembered as the day he visited hell on earth. *** From the very moment Vanderbilt's flight from Nashville landed in Mississippi, a dangerous place for African Americans ever since the days of slavery, it was obvious the plane had delivered Wallace and his only other black teammate, Godfrey Dillard, straight into the heart of intolerance. When the small propeller plane landed on a gravel runway surrounded by tall trees, Dillard thought, This place is backwoods. From the airport, a bus delivered the Commodores to their hotel, where a group of white students milled around, yelling at Wallace and Dillard and banging on the bus. As the Vanderbilt players walked into the Holiday Inn, all the white folks in the lobby turned around and stared at the two black players. They could not have felt more unwelcome. Sleep did not come easily for Wallace and Dillard that night. As members of Vanderbilt's freshman basketball team (in those days, freshmen couldn't play on the varsity), they were about to become the first African American basketball players ever to play a Southeastern Conference game in the state of Mississippi. Prior to the trip, Wallace told a Nashville sportswriter that he hadn't thought much about what might lay ahead in Starkville. "Schoolwork and basketball practice keep a man's mind on other things," he said. "However, I certainly do wonder just what sort of reception we'll get." In truth, Wallace had thought quite a bit about the trip, bracing himself for the hatred he suspected he and Dillard would encounter. "You knew you were going to get hit in some way," he recalled years later. "It was just a question of how bad was it going to be." On game day, Wallace contemplated his surroundings. He was troubled by what he knew of Mississippi: less than three years had passed since three young civil rights workers had been murdered only about sixty miles from Starkville, and less than a year had passed since James Meredith, the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi, was shot in broad daylight, even while surrounded by FBI agents. But it wasn't what he knew that concerned Wallace the most; it was the unknown. "That's the problem for pioneers," he recalled. "You don't know what could possibly happen to you. When you don't know what's going to happen, the sky is the limit." *** It is possible that the cramped visitors' locker room in the bowels of the Mississippi State gym was always a stinking mess, but when Godfrey Dillard and Perry Wallace walked in, they took stock of the filthy surroundings and believed that what they saw and smelled was an attack directed squarely at them, a pair of unwanted guests: there were toilets overflowing, towels scattered everywhere across a dirty floor. Game time approached, and the Commodores made their way from the locker room to the portal that led to the court, most of the players mentally preparing for a basketball game, Dillard and Wallace bracing themselves for the unknown, feeling like they were at the very apex of a roller coaster, their stomachs briefly suspended as if at zero gravity. And then out of the tunnel and onto the court and, boom, the sensation of the rapid drop, the too-bright arena lights searing their eyes, the ringing of cowbells (a Mississippi State tradition), the piercing screams from the fans jammed close to the court, flashes of light and sound and eruptions of hate from every direction. Two young black kids exposed and surrounded in the heart of Mississippi, there for the taking. Go home, niggers! We're going to kill you, coons! We're gonna lynch you! Forty years later, the scene stood out in teammate Bob Bundy's mind; in his memory, as the Commodore freshmen warmed up under one basket, the whole bleachers were full of Mississippi State football players screaming at Perry and Godfrey. When Vanderbilt switched baskets, the football players followed them across the gym, continuing their threats. Wallace's blood ran cold; he had trouble gripping the basketball, his fingers gone stiff and numb. His mind raced to scenes from his childhood: the carload of punks who pointed a gun at him as he waited for the bus, the bullies who harassed him as he walked to school. He had seen racism bring out the worst in people. But this was a whole new level of hate. What had he gotten himself into? Excerpted from Strong Inside: The True Story of How Perry Wallace Broke College Basketball's Color Line by Andrew Maraniss All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.