Skip to main content

Attucks!: Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City

Review

Attucks!: Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City

Although I am not a sports person, I am a Phillip Hoose person, so I was thrilled that his new book bounced my way (that was my attempt at a sports pun!). Hoose’s book, CLAUDETTE COLVIN: TWICE TOWARD JUSTICE, was a National Book Award winner as well as a Newbery Honor book, so he is no stranger to writing about historical events in nuanced, accessible and compelling ways for young adult audiences. Hoose scored another game-winning basket with this latest book, ATTUCKS!: OSCAR ROBERTSON AND THE BASKETBALL TEAM THAT AWAKENED A CITY.

In ATTUCKS, Hoose lays down the foundation that led to the creation of Crispus Attucks High School, an all black high school in Indianapolis, on September 12, 1927. As Hoose reports, in part, it was the prominence and power of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana that led to the founding of Crispus Attucks High School. However, the KKK’s desire to segregate schools backfired when the Crispus Attucks Tigers basketball team advanced to the 1955 state high school tournament, which forced the integration of the tournament, and, ultimately, the state’s schools. Not only did the Tigers make it to the 1955 state high school basketball tournament --- they won. Winning a state championship is a remarkable victory for any high school sports team, but it was especially so for the Crispus Attucks team as, because of their race, they faced many obstacles both on and off the court.

"Hoose is a master at making us care about the past and of opening up our eyes to the impact of the past on our present."

One of the reasons that Hoose’s books are so compelling is that he personalizes the history and events he covers; he often does this by following the story of a character or two. In ATTUCKS, Hoose focuses on two main players. The first, Ray Crowe, is the coach of the Tigers basketball team, who led them to their first state championship. Crowe was not only focused on preparing his players for the court, but for life as well, and coached them off the court as much as he did on the court. The second main player was Oscar Robertson; Robertson became the most well-known ATTUCKS player as he went on to play in the NBA and to win the NBA Lifetime Achievement Award. In fact, it was Robertson who brought the story of the state championship winning Attucks team to Hoose’s attention.

While ATTUCKS is certainly a book about basketball, it is also about the migration of African Americans from the south to the north looking for better lives for themselves and their families. However, the situation for African Americans in Indiana was not much better than what they left behind in the south; in fact, Indianapolis was referred to as “the South of the North.” Jim Crow-like laws were prevalent across the state and the level of poverty among the African American population was dire. It was these seemingly insurmountable barriers that Crowe and the 1955 team demolished in their drive to the state championship.

ATTUCKS is a book with wide appeal and great importance. It is my belief that readers of all ages and interests will find something interesting and inspirational in these pages. Hoose is a master at making us care about the past and of opening up our eyes to the impact of the past on our present. Don’t let the final buzzer sound without picking up a copy of ATTUCKS!: OSCAR ROBERTSON AND THE BASKETBALL TEAM THAT AWAKENED A CITY.

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on January 10, 2019

Attucks!: Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City
by Phillip Hoose