African Americans have had a rough time trying to participate in major athletics in the past. Some sports, such as baseball took large aspirations for the athletic community to integrate black athletes into their major league sports. African Americans have made great strides in the world of sports in the United States.
Sports in America show extremes in culture and it’s the passion to succeed that unites most of America. African American athletes have been able to participate in America’s several professional sports leagues since the inception of sports in America.But due to their race they have not always been given the chance. As sports grew into an American pastime they also grew on separate fields with race as a dividing line.
Up until the 1940″s most sports events were separated because of race. Only a few African Americans dared to follow their dreams and cross over the racial line in these times. For those few African Americas they became the prime symbol of their race. They had their whole race riding on their shoulders.
If this wasn’t a large enough burden to start with, they also had to endure teasing, harassment, and belittlement just to play the sport they loved.Moses Fleetwood, Paul Robeson, Chuck Cooper, lastly William Tecumseh Sherman Jackson paved the way for future black athletes in their respective sports. All of these men were the first to break the white and black barrier. Moses Fleetwood for baseball, Paul Robeson for football, Chuck Chopper for basketball, and William Tecumseh Sherman Jackson for track and field.
What these great athletes coped with is unimaginable but their achievements won’t be forgotten. Baseball is truly America’s pastime. The sport was played all the way back in colonial America, in the 1700″s.As America was the melting pot of cultures, several cultures contributed to this game we call baseball.
Baseball became such a popular sport that in 1869 the first Plourd 2 professional baseball team was organized. By 1876 eight-professional teams were made up and they formed the first baseball league. The two earliest African American baseball players to join all white teams were Bud Fowler and Moses Fleetwoods Walker. Bud Fowler played for the Keokuk in New Castle, Pennsylvania.
He was the only African American player on the team.Fowler never gave up on his goal to play in the major leagues and played for fourteen different teams for a career spanning twenty-five years but his dream was never met. He was never was able to cross over into the National League due to his race. On the other hand Moses Fleetwood Walker started his baseball career in college.
He attended Oberlin College which was one of the earliest American universities to allow both black and white into it’s school. Fleet Walker helped start a varsity baseball team for his College. He played for a couple of years until he was offered a chance to play baseball for the Toledo Blue Stockings.The Blue Stockings were in a minor Northwestern League, Fleetwood Walker played catcher for them.
When the Blue Stockings were admitted into major league baseball, Moses Fleetwood Walker became the first African American to join a professional baseball team! Unfortunately, he was only able to play forty-two games with Toledo and was then asked to leave the team. Toledo released Fleetwood Walker because in order for Toledo to play in other areas of the country, they were required to have no African American players on their rosters.In the summer of 1885 an African American man named Frank Thompson was furious about the rules to neglect African Americans from professional baseball. He then decided to formulate a baseball league purely for African Americans.
Thompson called it the League of Colored Baseball Clubs. This league became so popular among the African American community that black colleges and universities were all beginning to adopt baseball teams. The League of Colored Baseball Clubs wasn’t as popular as professional baseball in America. In 1903 the very first World Series was played between the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
With thousands attending each game. But it wasn’t until they 1940″s, with the invention of the television it’s interest nationwide exploded and baseball became American’s national pastime. But where did this leave African Americans? Everything was going great for the League of Colored Baseball Clubs. They even had enough players to split into two different leagues, the Negro National League and the Negro American League.
Just when the League of Colored Baseball Clubs was at it’s peak the Great Depression stuck America. It left over 14 million people out of work.This catastrophe nearly wiped out not only the Negro League but professional baseball as well. Two years after president Roosevelt passed the New Deal, the National League of Colored Baseball Clubs could no longer make it stopping in 1948.
The only remaining Negro League lasted until the early 60″s. The league was ended because the professional baseball league agreed to let the players from the Negro League into its league. The Negro League was going to be turned into a developmental league for black players while it was a part of the professional baseball league. At first, very little African Americans signed with Major League teams.
Then a couple years later almost the rest of the Negro league came to the Major Leagues. All of the players were signed to a minor league deal, despite their ability to play the game. Most of the player never saw the field in the majors, but went from minor league to minor league team due to their race. Even though African Americans were allowed into Major League Baseball teams most teams were afraid to take the risks on these players.
This all changed when Branch Rickey the owner of the Brooklyn Dodger decided to call up the first African American to professional baseball since Moses Fleetwood Walker in 1884.Jackie Robinson was promoted from Brooklyn’s minor league team. In his first major league season he won the National rookie of the year. Robinson had the most stolen bases in all of the majors in his very first season.
Robinson’s first season wasn’t all fun and games however. Every time he would play in a southern city he would be harassed because of his race. Robinson was the perfect gentlemen and never spoke a word he just played the game he loved. When Robinson first was placed on the Dodgers he was an outcast.
He was the only African American in all of America playing in the major leagues.Once his teammates witnessed what kind of baseball player Robinson really was they found a new respect for him. His teammates started to back him up whenever the team traveled passed the southern line. This team chemistry brought the Dodgers all the way to the World Series.
All though they lost four games to three, it opened the eyes of America to show them that integration between races isn’t that bad. Robinson lasted ten years in the majors and became the role model for all young African Americas in America. He was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1949 with the Dodgers.He would speak out about his race and being an American.
He once spoke in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington, D. C. Robinson was always under the microscope by the media and he still had to withstand racial prejudice and bigoted remarks as he did his job playing baseball. Robinson retired in January 5, 1957.
He was placed into the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 23, 1962. Also, his number 42 was retired by every major league team, becoming the only player to have his number retired by every team in the majors. Quite possibly becoming the only person to do so.Without Robinson, players such as Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play baseball on a national level.
A sport that is continuously gaining popularity in American is football. African Americans had a tough time making it into America’s professional football league. The first time football was recorded being played was in 1862, by the Oneida Football Cub. The first game was played at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where Rutgers played Harvard University.
Yale University was the first to take football seriously. Yale formulated firm rules for the game and constructed practices for their first football team.Yale also wanted to reform football into an American game by forming the All-American Team for college. The team was made to acknowledge all of the top football players in America.
There weren’t many African Americans in the colleges that offered football. But it didn’t stop them from receiving high awards. William Henry Lewis was the first African American All-American. Similar to baseball there wasn’t a problem in playing in lower leagues for African Americans but the professional league had a different time in having multi-races.
Like the Negro Leagues for baseball, in football they had a league called the American Football League.The only difference was that this league not only had African American League but whites played as well. The NFL did sign black players, but they received poor treatment by the fans and their fellow players. Black players received significantly lower contracts than whites in the NFL.
In the American Football League however there was no such distinction based on race. Which is why most African Americans joined. The American Football League had 13 African American signed by contract from 1920 to 1933. There was a total of only three in the National Football League during this same period.
The first African American to play on a NFL team was Fritz Pollard. Fritz Pollard was the Jackie Robinson of football. The reason why Pollard didn’t have the impact that Robinson did was due to the lack of popularity that football had. At that time baseball the sport that America was focused on.
Pollard wasn’t just the first African American to play in the National Football League but he was also the first African American to coach in it as well. Pollard stop coaching Plourd 6 after the merger between the AFL and the NFL. The American Football League lasted from 1960 to 1969.In 1970, the AFL merged with the National Football League.
All of the ten AFL teams became part of the National Football League. The two leagues merged together because most AFL fans wanted the AFL and the NFL to join together, somewhat like baseball had done. The league wanted to please its fans and didn’t have the finances so they merged their league with the NFL. The NFL then turned into two different conferences the AFC and the NFC.
The rivalry between the two conferences was bitter, and hard fought. But as time went on, the bitterness between the two conferences has dwindled away.Just as the rivalry went away so did the criticism to the African Americans and the players started to respect each other. Football players didn’t have to withstand the nation looking at their every move like Jackie Robinson had too.
Overall African American football players did have a couple hurdles in their way to play football but it was nothing compared to what African Americans had to deal with in baseball. Basketball in some peoples eyes is America’s pastime in the winter. It was invented my Mr. James A Naismith in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Naismith was a PE teacher for Springfield College in Springfield.Basketball hit America fast because of it’s fast pace and how simple it was to play. The great thing about this sport was that it could be played by both males and females. Most colleges and private clubs offered the team sport for the winter.
The majority of African American players were forced to play mainly as all-black teams, mainly because of the Jim Crow law. The Jim Crow Laws were state and local laws that took affect inthe South and border states of the United States. The law required racial segregation, especially of blacks, in all public facilities from 1876 to 1967. All-black basketball teams expanded in the north in early 1907.
The all-black teams started to become very competitive and many African American Plourd 7 players started to take it seriously. The best of the all-black basketball teams took part in the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference that started in 1912. These programs were to promote amateur and professional issues affecting African Americans in basketball. The first team was the Pittsburgh Rifles.
The Pittsburgh Rifles had a short dynasty going from 1909 to 1913. The Rifles were undefeated for four years straight against other all-black basketball teams.The owner of the Rifles wanted to show the world how great his team was so he changed their name from the Rifles to The Loendi Big Five. The all-black team went around the United States and demolished every team in their way.
Until they came to New York, where they played the Harlem Globetrotters. The Globetrotters too traveled around the United States playing other all-black basketball teams. The Globetrotters defeated The Loendi Big Five and gave them their first loss in over four years. From this time on these two teams were looked upon as the greats of the sport.
They played the game unlike anyone else in the country, they played a physical game and they were very quick and aggressive. These teams were admired by the African American community and set the pace for future basketball teams. Even though these team were very popular they only made a measly 25 dollars a game. As the sport grew in popularity talk of a professional league starting being tossed around.
The first professional basketball league was called the ABA. It was organized in 1925 neglecting African Americans and forbid them from joining. After the ABA, came the BAA which was formed in 1946.The Jim Crow law started to be forgotten and African Americans were now being allowed to not only play against southern colleges but play with them as well.
But even when the opportunity was presented there only a few African Americans decided to take the offer and play for a southern college. Even though African Americans were allowed to play at the professional Plourd 8 level many owners didn’t want to take a chance on any African American players. The owners didn’t see the African Americans as the next stars in the league, they saw them as a liability and didn’t want to take any chances.Some of the players they turned down were the best players in the land.
Around this time there was a rush of excellent African Americans who starting taking the courts at the college level. One of the remarkable players of the time was William “Dolly” King. He played for Long Island University in 1937. King was the first African American to play in the National AAU Tournament in 1937.
The 50″s brought great change to basketball. Chuck Cooper was the first African American to play in the NBA, the NBA was and still is the highest level in basketball.Cooper didn’t have to wait long until hundreds of other African Americans joined him in the NBA. Names such as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Elgin Baylor.
These players changed the face of basketball accomplishing extraordinary feats. Bill Russell has the record for most NBA championships. Wilt Chamberlain once scored 100 points in a single game. These players inspired many African Americans to play basketball.
In the 50″s only five percent of the league was made up of African Americans, now more than 75 percent participate in the NBA.Track and field, a sport done played the world but suffered with segregation as well. African Americans have always had an appeal for track and field. Some say it’s because of the fierce competition and how much will power is needed to become successful.
Way back before America was even a country, Africans needed to run from village to village to deliver goods. Running was a way of life and it continues today in America. In the early 1800″s African Americans would have walking races. It was pretty much fast walking for a long distance, but it attracted many people to see what was going on.
There were two great African AmericanPlourd 9 walkers, one was names Francis Smith the other Frank Hart. Francis Smith raced in the early 1800″s and Frank Hart raced in late 1800″s. These walking races only lasted around 100 years and then soon vanished. But what came of these races were more organized games.
But with organized sports, there’s the problem of money. Track and field needed sponsors to fund their races. The New York Athletic Club was formed in 1866 and in 1871 sponsored most of the track and field events. The only flaw to this was that the New York Athletic Club wouldn’t allow any African Americans to participate in any of the track and field events.
The New York Athletic Club wasn’t the only sponsoring group that didn’t allow African Americans to participate. The Amateur Athletic Union discouraged African Americans to participate in their track and field events. African Americans were finally allowed to participate in 1895 at the Penn Relay Race which was held in Philadelphia. But there was a catch, the African Americans had to find their own sponsors and a place to race.
The only sponsor that would acknowledge the African American’s was the YMCA. In 1893 the first college track and field meet was raced in due part of James B. Washington’s efforts.James B.
Washington was the first sports director of Tuskegee Institute and he encouraged equality among races. This was the first step for African Americans in track and field. From there, schools from the north started to recruit African American to run for them. Such schools as Dartmouth, Penn State, and even Harvard.
The Smart Set Club which helped African Americans in other sports also helped them in track and field. Their support strengthened the need for African Americans to be placed on college track and field teams. The first famous track and field runner was William Tecumseh Sherman Jackson.Jackson went to Amherst College which is in Massachusetts, and ran the half mile race.
Jackson ran for 15 years and retired in 1904. Jackson was very popular among young inspiring African American runners. Plourd 10 After his retirement the first championship for African Americans was held. In this championship was a race called a “Decathlon”.
A decathlon is a competition that has ten different track and field events from 100m run to the javelin throw. Edward Solomon Butler a high school student wanted to participate in the event. Butler ended up winning five of the ten events.He won the broad jump, the high jump, and 100m, 200m and 400m races.
After this many colleges pursued Butler for their track and field teams. Butler decided on the University of Iowa. There he set several different track records while attending Iowa University. Butler gave most of the credit for his success to Jackson for inspiring him to run track.
Since Butler raced, there have been many more African Americans on the United States track and field team then white. The last huge African American sprinter was Jesse Owens. Most of Butler’s records were surpassed by Owens.Owens is most famous for his performance at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
Owens won four gold medals and defeated Hitler’s “unbeatable” sprinters. We owe an enormous amount of respect to these early African Americans. What they had to live through is unthinkable and should never be forgotten. I just went though four sports and four athletes, however there were hundreds of others who helped bring African Americans to where they are today.
These athletes had to not only deal with enormous amounts of racism on the field but it didn’t cease there.These great athletes held themselves as gentlemen, they never showed their weakness and never let anyone tell them what they could do. These people were more than just athletes but innovators for not only sports but their race in unbearable times. Every sport was a challenge but baseball had to have been the most rigorous sport to integrate in.
African American’s were attempting to play America’s sport, the sport that all of America watched and loved in a time when racism was at its bitter top. The integration with baseball also changed America’s view on African American’s in sports.