SPORTS & RECREATION

The Brown Bullet: Rajo Jack’s Drive To Integrate Auto Racing

Chicago Review. May 2020. 240p. ISBN 9781641602297. $28.99. SPORTS
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Investigative journalist Poehler writes a biography of African American auto racer Rajo Jack (1905–56), who was raised in Tyler, TX, but left home at 15 before settling in Portland, OR, where he found work as a truck driver and mechanic. In 1922, after meeting legendary racer Barney Oldfield, he constructed a Ford Model T from junk parts and began competing on dirt tracks. Barred from American Automobile Association events, he called himself Rajo Jack and raced at “outlaw” venues. He moved to Los Angeles, running in midget cars, sprint cars, and stock cars, winning 30 feature races between 1934 and 1950. His dream was to enter the Indianapolis 500; however, that wasn’t an option for him as a black man. Jack did become a regional celebrity, attracting sponsorship and appearance money, yet racing remained a financial struggle, and he experienced disabling injuries. Many decades after his death, he was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.
VERDICT Poehler has done a fine job of researching the life of Rajo Jack, relating his determination and poise in the face of discrimination.

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