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The Sport of the Gods was one of the first novels to examine the forces that extinguish the dreams of African Americans.
In it, author Paul Laurence Dunbar portrays the experiences of an African-American family in the years following the civil war, and the abolition of slavery, and their struggle to survive and prosper in early Harlem.
The Hamilton family leaves their home down south, and makes their way to New York, where they try to start a new life. But the pressures of urban life have serious consequences for each member of the family.
Joe quickly takes to drink and becomes involved with Hattie. Joe kills her and is sentenced to prison. Kitty succumbs to Thomas's advances and pays a high price. Fannie is persuaded by a gambler to marry him and endures an abusive relationship.
Its brilliant depiction of the harsh realities of ghetto life still resonates today: the hustlers, bars, tawdry shows, raucous music, and drugs, alcohol, gambling, the temptations that spell doom to the newcomers from the South.
The destruction of the Hamilton family proceeds quickly to its inevitable conclusion.
PAUL LAURANCE DUNBAR (1872 – 1906) was an African-American poet, novelist, and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His famous poems include "Sympathy", which includes the line "I know why the caged bird sings", and "Frederick Douglass".