Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City (Paperback)

Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City By Jay Jennings Cover Image

Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City (Paperback)


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In 2007, as the fiftieth anniversary of the fight to integrate Little Rock Central High School approached, veteran sportswriter and native son of Little Rock Jay Jennings returned to his hometown to take the pulse of the city and the school. He found a compelling story in Central High's football team, where Black and white students toiled under longtime coach Bernie Cox, whose philosophy of discipline and responsibility and punishing brand of physical football had led the team to win seven state championships.

Carry the Rock tells the story of the dramatic ups and downs of a high school football season and reveals a city struggling with its legacy of racial discrimination and the complex issues of contemporary segregation. In the season Jennings masterfully chronicles, Cox finds his ideas sorely tested in his attempts to unify the team, and the result is an account brimming with humor, compassion, frustration, and honesty. What Friday Night Lights did for small-town Texas, Carry the Rock does for the urban South and for any place like Little Rock where sports, race, and community intersect.

Jay Jennings, a former reporter for Sports Illustrated and senior editor at the Oxford American, is a freelance writer who has contributed to the New York Times, Travel & Leisure, and many other outlets. He is the editor of Tennis and the Meaning of Life: A Literary Anthology of the Game and, most recently, the Library of America’s collection of the novels and other writings of Charles Portis. He lives in Little Rock with his wife and daughter.

Product Details ISBN: 9781682262269
ISBN-10: 168226226X
Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
Publication Date: March 20th, 2023
Pages: 296
Language: English

“Jennings writes…with authority and power.”

—Howard Bryant, New York Times Book Review

Carry the Rock transcends the season-on-the-brink genre.”

—Eddie Dean, Wall Street Journal

“We’re just a page or two into the prologue when we realize we’re in the hands of a discerning and expert storyteller. The sweeping opening gives way to a multi-tiered narrative that isn’t just great sportswriting, but chronicles the history of a team, a school and a city that, 50 years later, is still trying to come to terms with its most harrowing and/or calcifying event. This is not an undemanding story about a football team; it’s a rich portrait of a complicated place and its people.”

Arkansas Times

“A native son juxtaposes passion for football and the tumultuous history of race relations in Little Rock. The result is a must-read page-turner.”

—Minnijean Brown Trickey, Little Rock Nine member

“A sweeping yet nuanced portrait of race in America— a picture of how far we have come since the Little Rock Nine made their historic stand and of how far we still have to go.”

—Jonathan Mahler, author of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning

“Jennings has produced that rarest of things: A book about race and sports that avoids all the usual clichés. Unsentimental yet inspiring, Carry the Rock does what all books about race relations should attempt but few achieve. It tells the reader something he doesn’t know.”

—Joe Queenan, author of True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans and Closing Time: A Memoir