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Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

Tuskegee athletic coach, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, to Elbert B. Abbott, a stonemason, and Mollie (Brown) Abbott. Abbott grew up in Watertown, South Dakota, attending Watertown public schools, where he was a superior student and athlete. He graduated from high school in 1912 with an unheard-of sixteen Arrow letters in athletics.

Abbott entered South Dakota State College in Brookings, South Dakota, in the fall of 1912, selecting a dairy science major and joining the athletic program. His outstanding athletic and academic performance attracted the attention of the college president Ellwood Perisho, an acquaintance of Booker T. Washington Washington promised Abbott a job at Tuskegee contingent on his continued scholastic excellence Abbott did not disappoint maintaining his high marks and earning fourteen athletic letters in four years in track football baseball and basketball In this last he played center captained the team and was named All ...

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Leslie Heaphy

infielder for the Kansas City Monarchs Negro Leagues baseball team, was born Newton Henry Allen in Austin, Texas. The names and occupations of his parents are unknown. Allen attended Lincoln High School, Kansas City, Missouri, and played ball for the Kansas City Tigers while still in school, before leaving to play for the Omaha Federals in 1921. While handling the middle of the infield for the Federals, Monarchs owner J. L. Wilkinson saw the youngster play and signed him to his All-Nations ball club. After only one season with the All-Nations, Allen was promoted to the Monarchs in 1923.

Allen played for twenty-three seasons in the Negro Leagues. Most of his playing time was spent at either second base or shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the original teams in the Negro National League established in 1920 In addition to playing for Kansas City Allen ...

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Adam W. Green

baseball player and manager, was born Felipe Rojas Alou, in Haina, Dominican Republic, to Jose Rojas, a carpenter/blacksmith and grandson of a slave, and Virginia Alou, a homemaker and Caucasian daughter of a Spanish migrant. The second Dominican-born player in major league baseball, Alou was one of three baseball-playing brothers and became the first Dominican to manage in the big leagues.

Alou grew up with five younger siblings in a fifteen-by-fifteen-foot house his father had built in the village of Haina. For much of his childhood, food came from where Alou and his family could scavenge it: using bamboo poles and construction wire to fish in the Haina River or climbing coconut trees and scouring for other fruit. Baseball equipment was scarce in the poor village, and Alou and his brothers would play with lemons or coconut husks for balls and their hands for bats.

Alou traveled to ...

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Adam W. Green

baseball player, was one of four sons born to his father, Shube Alston, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Alston went to the all-black Dudley High School in Greensboro. Upon graduating, he joined the United States Navy in April 1944 and trained at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois. He served on a cargo ship for a year and a half before being discharged in March 1946. Alston enrolled in North Carolina A&T State University, where he began to play baseball competitively. At 6 feet 5 inches and over 200 pounds, Alston was physically suited to a number of school sports, and the school's athletic director attempted to entice him into playing basketball and football as well, but Alston balked. He received his degree in physical education in 1951.

Before graduation Alston began his foray into semiprofessional baseball first for the Goshen Greensboro Red Wings and then for ...

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Luckett V. Davis

boxer, was born Henry Jackson Jr. near Columbus, Mississippi, the son of Henry Jackson. His mother, whose name is unknown, was a full‐blooded Iroquois, and his father was of mixed Indian, Irish, and black ancestry. He was the eleventh child in a family of sharecroppers. When he was four years old his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his father and older brothers worked in the food‐processing industry. His mother died a few years later, after which he was reared by his paternal grandmother. Jackson graduated from Toussaint L'Ouverture Grammar School and Vashon High School, working during his school years as a pin boy at a bowling alley and becoming the inter‐alley bowling champion in midtown St. Louis. He gained his first boxing experience by winning a competition among the pin boys.

Lacking funds to attend college, Jackson worked at a series of unskilled jobs At the ...

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Larry R. Gerlach

baseball umpire, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Littleton Ashford, a truck driver, and Adele Bain. Ashford was two or three years old when his father abandoned the family, so he grew up under the strong influence of his mother, a secretary for the California Eagle, an African American newspaper published in Los Angeles. As a youth, Ashford exhibited the traits that marked him in adult life as a gregarious extrovert. At Jefferson High School he was a sprinter on the track team, a member of the scholastic honor society, and the first African American to serve as president of the student body and as editor of the school newspaper. He graduated from Los Angeles City College and attended Chapman College in nearby Orange from 1940 to 1941. From 1944 until 1947 he served in the U.S. Navy.

Ashford began his umpiring career ...

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Brian Turner

the first African American to integrate baseball, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the second son of Nelson Askin and Sarah Lloyd. In 1844 Nelson Askin moved to Florence, a mill village in Northampton, Massachusetts, to open a livery. Across the road was the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, a utopian community whose ideals and practices ensured an integrated membership. Although the association disbanded in 1846, many members stayed in Florence, including Sojourner Truth and David Ruggles; their influence marked the village as a “sanctuary” for all, regardless of religion, class, or race. But in 1849, when Sarah Askin arrived in Florence with her six children, Nelson had already sold off parts of his property, and shortly thereafter the livery was seized by creditors. By 1850 Nelson had abandoned Sarah From then on Sarah took in washing to support her children who at the earliest ...

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Ron Howell

first African American elected to political office in Brooklyn, New York, and a leader in the mid-twentieth century effort to integrate American tennis, was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, then part of the British West Indies. His mother was Lillian de Grasse Baker, whose family had successful retail businesses on the island; his father was the Reverend Alfred B. Baker, a Wesleyan Methodist minister.

Tragedy struck in 1900 when Lillian Baker died of consumption. Bertram, an only child, would find comfort in the care of his maternal grandmother, Eliza de Grasse. In 1905 Baker's father left Nevis, accepting an offer to become founding pastor of the Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church in Brooklyn. The Reverend Baker would later also found the Beulah Wesleyan Methodist Church in Manhattan.

In 1915 the Reverend Baker returned to Nevis to pick up his seventeen year old son Bertram who ...

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John Herschel Barnhill

right-handed baseball pitcher and occasional outfielder, was born in Detroit, Michigan, but grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Details of his parents’ names and occupations, and his own experiences before baseball, are not known.

Nicknamed the Black Diamond and the Georgia Rabbit, Ball was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 170 pounds. He ranked with Rube Foster, Harry Buckner, and Dan McClellan as one of the outstanding pitchers in black baseball. He was a shrewd, control pitcher, not overpowering but adept with the spitball. In many seasons, he won over twenty games, averaged more than one strikeout per inning, and held his earned run average below 2.00.

At first he played for otherwise all-white amateur or semipro teams in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. His first win was in 1896 by a score of 26 to 25 In his first North Dakota season he won 25 of 28 ...

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Adam W. Green

baseball player, was born in Empire, Alabama, the third of five sons of Garnett Bankhead Sr., a coal miner, and Arie (Armstrong) Bankhead. Baseball was in the family blood: Garnett Bankhead was a power‐hitting first baseman in an Alabama industrial league, and all five Bankhead brothers played in the Negro Leagues, though Dan was the only one to play in the major leagues, becoming the first black pitcher in modern baseball history.

After attending various public schools in Birmingham, Alabama, Bankhead followed his two brothers Sam and Fred into the Negro Leagues, when he signed as a shortstop with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1940. He soon moved to the pitching mound, establishing himself with a dominant fastball and effective breaking ball; in 1941 he was named to the East West All Star Game hurling a pair of shutout innings That winter he played in the Puerto ...

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Byron Motley

baseball player-manager, was the eldest of five Negro Baseball League playing brothers born to Garnett Bankhead, a coal miner, and Ara Armstrong, a housewife, in Empire, Alabama. Before becoming one of the Negro Leagues' most popular players, Samuel “Sam” Howard Bankhead spent his youth playing in sandlots around his hometown when he wasn't working the coal mines. In 1929, his professional baseball-playing days began with the Birmingham Black Barons, but he would move from team to team.

A five tool ballplayer Bankhead s Negro League Baseball career spanned two decades The five foot eight inch 175 pound dynamo consistently hit for average hit with power possessed a rifle like throwing arm excelled at fielding and was a leading base stealer throughout the 1930s and 1940s His lifetime batting average of 318 and versatile abilities earned him seven East West All Star berths at five different positions ...

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Richard Sobel

Major League Baseball player and sports marketing executive, was born Ernest Banks in Dallas, Texas, to Eddie, a semiprofessional baseball player, WPA worker, and wholesale grocery employee, and Essie Banks, a homemaker. Raised in Dallas as the second child and first boy of twelve children, his mother said he “was a blessing to us all” (Contemporary Black Biography, 2002, 17). Ernie graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas in 1950 and later took courses at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and other colleges.

At Washington High, Banks excelled in baseball, basketball, and track and field (high jumping 5‘11'’, broad jumping 19 feet). Once batboy for his dad's semipro team and on the Washington softball team, during high school summers he played in a barnstorming “summer time baseball troupe,” the Amarillo Colts, earning $15 a game (Current Biography, 1959 After graduating from ...

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Daniel A. Dalrymple

professional basketball player, was born Charles Wade Barkley in Leeds, Alabama, in 1963. Barkley was raised by his mother, Charcey Glenn, who supported the family by cleaning homes, and his grandmother, Johnnie Mae Edwards, who worked in a meat factory. In high school the five-foot-ten-inch Barkley harbored ambitions to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) despite failing to make the varsity squad in the tenth grade. However, Barkley persevered by putting in long hours on the practice court and by honing his vertical leaping ability. During his senior year in high school, Auburn University offered Barkley (who then stood six feet four inches) a basketball scholarship.

At Auburn Barkley earned the first of many nicknames he would garner throughout his career the round mound of rebound He earned this nickname because he weighed three hundred pounds and was able to consistently out rebound taller opponents Barkley ...

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Hasaan A. Kirkland

football player and painter, was born Ernest Eugene Barnes Jr. in Durham, North Carolina, the son of Ernest Barnes Sr., a tobacco worker, and Fannie Mae Geer, who worked for a local legal official. On occasion Barnes talked with Mr. Fuller, his mother's employer, and from him learned about culture, art, and classical music.

Before the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 it was uncommon for African Americans in North Carolina to have access to museums or other sources of information about ancient or world cultures Segregation and racial inequalities in schools and other public institutions deprived most back children of avenues for artistic pursuits Despite such constraints Barnes s mother exposed her son to as much culture and art as she could he studied dance and horn and percussion instruments as well as the visual arts By the time ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Oberlin, Ohio, one of five children (two boys and three girls) of James and Margaret Barnes. James, from North Carolina, was a chef at Oberlin College, and Margaret, from Kentucky, ran a family laundry. Soon after they married, Barnes's parents settled in Oberlin to raise their family because of the community's liberal atmosphere. They were aware of the role the town had played as a way station on the Underground Railroad for fugitive slaves in the nineteenth century. Barnes received the bulk of his education in Oberlin. He graduated from high school there in 1932 and was elected to the National Honor Society. In 1936 he graduated from Oberlin College with a bachelor s degree in Physical Education He was an outstanding athlete who played end on the college s football team and starred on the track team He established a ...

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Byron Motley

baseball player, was born in Greenville, North Carolina. As a teenager working in the tobacco fields he honed his skills as a pitcher. His first exposure to professional baseball came in 1936 when the manager of the visiting Wilson Stars from Wilson, North Carolina, spotted his burgeoning talent. After the team manager promised Barnhill's mother a dollar a day for her son's pitching duties, she consented to let her son join the team.

Barnhill barnstormed for two years with several independent teams. In 1938 he began his first of twelve Negro League seasons by joining the Jacksonville Red Caps. The following year, with the Ethiopian Clowns, Barnhill took part in the team's minstrel sideshows. Earning the nickname “Impo,” Barnhill cut up with his teammates in clown makeup and wild wigs while performing comic displays to delighted fans.

In the winter of 1940–1941 Barnhill pitched in the Puerto Rican ...

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John Herschel Barnhill

horse trainer and show rider, was born on the Bass Plantation near Columbia, Missouri, to Cornelia Grey, an African American slave, and William Hayden Bass, the white son of the plantation owner. He was reared by his maternal grandfather, Presley Grey. By the 1890s his prowess as a horse trainer was known throughout the world of saddle horses. His horses won championships and well over 2,000 blue ribbons. He met five presidents, and he rode in several inaugural parades.

Tom was riding at age 4 and jumping at age 6. While working at the town hotel as a bellhop and buggy driver, he trained rogue horses part time. In 1879 he began working for Joseph Potts in Mexico as a trainer Saddle horses were highly prized during this era and Potts and his partner sold only the top of the line Potts s Thornton Star was one of the ...

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Christopher Devine

baseball player, was born Earl Jesse Battey Jr. in Los Angeles, California, to Esther (maiden name unknown) and Earl Battey Sr. His parents—particularly Esther who, from 1938 to 1948 was a catcher on women s softball teams such as the Watts All Stars the Ebonettes and the MacAfee All Stars encouraged him to play baseball as a youngster As a freshman at Los Angeles s Jordan High School Battey made the team only to sit the bench for the first six games of the season as a backup outfielder When the starting catcher split his finger during a game however coach Norm Forester looked to Battey his only nonpitcher left on the twelve man roster to fill in Battey turned out to be so good as catcher that he kept the position even after the previous catcher recovered At six feet one inch tall and 205 pounds the thick ...

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Dolph H. Grundman

basketball player and executive, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of a railroad brakeman. Little else is known about his parents. Baylor grew up in a poor section of the District of Columbia and played basketball at the all-black Spingarn High School, where he scored sixty-eight points in a single game to establish a new record for a D.C. high schooler. Although he was the first African American to make the all-metropolitan team, his poor grades discouraged college recruiters. Thus Baylor started his college career with a football scholarship at the tiny College of Idaho, which had only 450 students. Sam Vokes coached both football and basketball and decided that it made good sense to keep the talented Baylor off the football field Baylor proceeded to average thirty one points a game and made the NAIA All American team which recognizes the achievements of small school athletes After ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...