Johnny Smith is an assistant professor of history at Georgia Tech, where he has won numerous teaching awards. His research investigates the history of American sports, and he is especially interested in sports icons who have left imprints on American culture. His first book, The Sons of Westwood: John Wooden, UCLA, and the Dynasty that Changed College Basketball (2013), explores the emergence of college basketball as a national pastime and the political conflicts in college athletics during the 1960s and 1970s. Most recently, he is a coauthor, with Randy Roberts, of Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X (2016)—named one of Amazon's best history books of the year—and A Season in the Sun: The Rise of Mickey Mantle (2018).
In this lecture, Smith explores the significance of Jackie Robinson as a cultural symbol and the political implications of his career and civil rights activism.