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African American Studies

The Discipline and Its Dimensions

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Nathaniel Norment, Jr.

African American Studies: The Discipline and Its Dimensions is a comprehensive resource book that recounts the development of the discipline of African American Studies and provides a basic reference source for sixteen areas of knowledge of the discipline: anthropology, art, dance, economics, education, film, history, literature, music, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, political science, science and technology, sports and religion. African American Studies defines bodies of knowledge, methodologies, philosophies, disciplinary concepts, contents, scope, topics scholars have concerned themselves, as well as the growth, development, and present status of the discipline. African American Studies validates that African American Studies is a unique and significant discipline—one that intersects almost every academic discipline and cultural construct—and confirms that the discipline has a noteworthy history and a challenging future. The various bodies of knowledge, the philosophical framework, methodological procedures, and theoretical underpinnings of the discipline have never been clearly delineated from an African-centered perspective.

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17. African American Sports

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CHAPTER 17

African American Sports

Akofena “Sword of war” Symbol of courage, valor and heroism

The African Antecedents

In the modern world, sports have come to signify both the idea of an entertainment-driven enterprise for its consumers and the acquisition of wealth and status for its practitioners. In other words, sports, like all other areas of human activity, reflect the worldview of the people who participate. For precolonial Africa, this was equally true. Most scholars of African sports do not separate the games and leisure from the larger concerns of spirituality and human connection that guide African life. From the earliest evidence, that of Ancient Egypt, we know that sports were part of the normal functioning of society. Pharaohs were known to be athletic and had to demonstrate such athletic prowess in order to be considered fit to rule. Sports were also the preserve of the common people as well. In Egypt, there are numerous stelae and reliefs which depict Egyptians engaging in leisure activities from running to wrestling to archery. Children were also engaged in various ball games and dance, and hunting sports were widely practiced. The culture of gaming was then directly related to other spheres of life: procuring food, defending the nation, etc.1

“It is unlikely that the seventh-century Islamic conquest of North Africa radically altered the traditional sports of the region. As long as wars were fought with bow and arrow, archery contests...

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