The dominance of some Black athletes in some sports after civil rights led scientists and journalists to search for explanations in athletes’ culture, geography, psychology, and, increasingly, in their genes—all contributing, whether they landed on culture or biology, to a resurgent race science that invented what it purported to investigate. Science writers could not stop asking whether Kenyans won marathons because of their genes or because of their nation’s running tradition, frequently turning to a more fully naturalized gender binary to justify their pursuit of racial difference in sports. The question itself, no matter how it got answered, legitimized the idea that the Black athlete constituted a scientifically valid category, a category that in a society that privileges the natural above the social sciences (and all sciences above the humanities) ultimately entered the public sphere in biological form.

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