The Public Interest

The social democratic city

Fred Siegel

Spring 2000

IN 1950, three years after Jackie Robinson had broken in with  the Dodgers, and well before the rest of the country had begun to face up to the issue of racial integration, New York’s City College (CCNY) basketball team became a symbol of urban harmony. In Madison Square Garden, the site of the city’s numerous political rallies for the Communist Party, the CIO, Negro fi’eedom, and other left-wing causes, the CCNY team won victory after victory. The team, composed almost entirely of the children of the city’s Jewish and black working class, went on to defeat the all-white University of Kentucky squad to win the national championship. Coach Nat Holman and his players became local and national heroes. The neighborhoods of New York celebrated the victory as a vindication of the city’s ideal of social solidarity. This was surely New York at its best, a model for the nation.

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