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The Rhythm Boys of Omaha Central: High School Basketball at the '68 Racial Divide

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In the spring of 1968, the Omaha Central High School basketball team made history with its first all-black starting lineup. Their nickname, the Rhythm Boys, captured who they were and what they did on the court. Led by star center Dwaine Dillard, the Rhythm Boys were a shoo-in to win the state championship. But something happened on their way to glory.

In early March, segregationist George Wallace, in a third-party presidential bid, made a campaign stop in Omaha. By the time he left town, Dillard was in jail, his coach was caught between angry political factions, and the city teetered on the edge of racial violence. So began the Nebraska state high school basketball tournament the next day, caught in the vise of history. The Rhythm Boys of Omaha Central tells a true story about high school basketball, black awakening and rebellion, and innocence lost in a watershed year. The drama of civil rights in 1968 plays out in this riveting social history of sports, politics, race, and popular culture in the American heartland.

ISBN-13: 9780803234345

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Bison Original

Publication Date: 03-01-2011

Pages: 264

Product Dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

Steve Marantz is an Omaha Central graduate and the author of Sorcery at Caesars: Sugar Ray’s Marvelous Fight. A researcher for ESPN Content Development and E:60, and a coeditor of, he formerly covered sports, government, and politics for the Kansas City Star, the Boston Globe, and the Boston Herald. Susie Buffett, a 1971 graduate of Omaha Central, is the eldest of Warren Buffett’s three children and runs the not-for-profit Sherwood Foundation.

Table of Contents

Foreword Susie Buffett ix

Prologue xv

1 First Bell 1

2 Tears of a Clown 19

3 Summer of '67 35

4 Just Their Imagination 53

5 So Glad They Made It 73

6 Get on Board 89

7 Jupiter Aligns 103

8 "A Mongrel Unit" 123

9 Wallace for President 141

10 Darkness, Darkness 161

11 The Broken Hearted 175

12 Last Bell 195

13 Their Beat Goes On 213

Postscript 219

Acknowledgments 229

Index 235