Although the Raiders had not been established until 1960, they were already among professional football's most popular franchises, and featured a number of African American stars. The Raiders dominated the 1970 All-Conference team with nine players - including African Americans Warren Wells, Hewritt Dixon, Gene Upshaw, and Willie Brown. Raymond Chester was named conference Rookie of the Year. Lineman Art Shell, who later would become a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, was also a member of the team.
The Raiders had helped usher in the major league era of professional sports in1960 when they were awarded a franchise in the then-new American Football League. They played their initial season at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, as no worthy Oakland football venue then existed. The team moved into its first Oakland home, 23,000-person capacity Frank Youell Field, in 1962.
After three desultory seasons, Raiders management hired a young San Diego Chargers assistant coach, Al Davis, a move that over following decades would be both a blessing and a curse for Oakland fans.
Davis immediately built an American Football League power, as Oakland improved to 10-4, good for second place in the western division. In 1967, the team won the league championship, before losing in Super Bowl II to the Green Bay Packers.
By the 1970s, the AFL had merged with the National Football League to form one professional pro circuit. African Americans were among the league's top players. In 1976, Oakland would win Super Bowl XI over the Minnesota Vikings and Brown, Upshaw, and Shell, along with strong safety George Atkinson and running back Clarence Davis, would be among the team's African American stars.
But while blacks were becoming dominant on the field, they were absent from NFL management positions. In 1980, there were no black head coaches in the NFL and only 14 African Americans worked in assistant coaching positions, none holding offensive or defensive coordinator posts. It would be 1989 before Art Shell of the then Los Angeles Raiders would be named the league's first African American coach.
The 1980s also brought down another racial barrier, as quarterback Doug Williams led the Washington Redskins to the Super Bowl XXII title, in a 42-10 rout of the Denver Broncos. Only one other African American player, James Harris, who had played primarily for the Los Angeles Rams in the 1970s, had started consistently at quarterback in the NFL.
Brown, Upshaw, and Shell were African American Raiders of the period who became members of the Hall of Fame. Upshaw would later head the NFL Players Association, the collective bargaining organization for the league's players.
Progress continued during the 1990s, albeit slowly. By 1997, there were 103 black assistant coaches. In 1999, Ray Rhodes of the Packers led the first all African American coaching staff.
Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens became the first black general manager in 2002.
Currently 154 of 547 league assistant coaches are black, but only two are offensive coordinators. Three head coaches are African Americans, only one more than a decade ago.
More than 65 percent of today's NFL players are African American.
As for the Raiders, in 1982 Davis would move the team to Los Angeles,
despite having won Super Bowl XVIII in 1983 and drawing years of capacity crowds to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. They would win Super Bowl XVII in 1983 and move back to Oakland for the 1995 season. While recent years have been characterized by nearly constant litigation between the Raiders and the city and county, the team remains in Oakland today.
11.8 Students analyze the economic boom and social transformation of post-World War II America.