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Gerald Early

Despite the considerable achievements of such important African American athletes as Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Wilma Rudolph, Jim Brown, and Jackie Robinson, the young brash prizefighter from Louisville, Kentucky, may very well have eclipsed their significance. He surely eclipsed their fame as, at the height of his career in the early and middle 1970s, Muhammad Ali was, without question, the most famous African American in history and among the five most recognized faces on the planet.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in 1942 (named after both his father and the famous Kentucky abolitionist), the gregarious, handsome, and extraordinarily gifted boxer garnered world attention by winning a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. He further stunned the sports world by beating the heavily favored Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight title in 1964 and shocked white America by announcing right after that fight that ...

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David K. Wiggins

Born as Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, Muhammad Ali first gained international attention when he won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Rome Olympics. In 1964 he captured the heavyweight championship for the first time in a surprising sixth-round technical knockout of Sonny Liston. Shortly after that fight, Ali announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims), the black separatist religious group led by Elijah Muhammad. Ali's religious conversion provoked much controversy in America, especially among whites who abhorred his membership in a group that spoke of “white devils” and the superiority of the black race. He further infuriated many Americans when he refused induction into the armed forces in 1967, during the Vietnam War, on religious grounds. His stand resulted in the revoking of his heavyweight crown and conviction for draft evasion. In 1970 the U S Supreme ...

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John Gennari

As the dominant heavyweight boxer of the 1960s and 1970s, Muhammad Ali won an Olympic gold medal, captured the professional world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions, and successfully defended his title nineteen times. Ali's extroverted, colorful style, both in and out of the ring, heralded a new mode of media-conscious athletic celebrity. Through his bold assertions of black pride, his conversion to the Muslim faith, and his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War, Ali became a highly controversial figure during the turbulent 1960s. At the height of his fame, Ali was described as “the most recognizable human being on earth.”

Ali's 1981 retirement from boxing did not diminish his status as an international public figure. Despite suffering from Parkinson's disease, Ali remained on the world stage as an adherent of the Nation of Islam an advocate of children and war victims and a proponent of international understanding ...

Article

Gerald Early

world champion boxer and political activist, was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky, the eldest of two sons raised by Cassius Clay Sr., a sign painter and something of a frustrated artist, and Odessa Grady, a domestic. Young Clay began to take boxing lessons at the age of twelve because someone had stolen his bicycle and he was determined to exact revenge against the perpetrators. He never discovered who stole his bike, but he did blossom as a young fighter, taking instruction from the Louisville policeman Joe Martin. His brother, Rudolph Arnette Clay (Rudolph Valentino Clay in some sources and later Rahaman Ali), also took up boxing, but, lacking his brother's talent, never became a significant presence in the sport.

Clay became a gym rat feeling that he could succeed in boxing as he never could in school Although he showed no special ability in his ...

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Luther Adams

boxer, civil rights activist. Perhaps one of the most recognized people in the world, Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. to Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. and Odessa (Grady) Clay in Louisville, Kentucky. He was named in honor of his father and the white Kentucky abolitionist Cassius M. Clay. Clay attended the all-black Central High School in Louisville, Kentucky, graduating 376th out of a senior class of 391. Ali has been married four times: to Sonji Roi, Kalilah Tolona (formerly Belinda Boyd), Veronica Porsche, and Yolanda Ali. He has been married to Yolanda since 1986, and has seven daughters and two sons, including Laila Ali, a boxer in her own right.

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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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Terence M. Mashingaidze

nationalist politician, first titular president of independent Zimbabwe, statesman, peace broker, clergyman, author, soccer administrator, academic, poet, and journalist, was born on 5 March 1936 at Esiphezini, in Essexvale (now Esigodini) District near Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia. The versatile Banana’s father, Aaron, was a migrant laborer from Malawi while his mother, Jese, was a Zimbabwean Ndebele woman. Banana married Janet Mbuyazwe in 1961; the marriage produced three sons and a daughter. Banana attended Mzinyati primary school and Tegwani High School. He trained as a teacher at Tegwani Training Institute and then attended Epworth Theological Seminary, resulting in his ordination as a Methodist preacher in 1962 Subsequently he worked as a Methodist schools manager principal chairperson of the Bulawayo Council of Churches and member of the Rhodesian Christian Council and World Council of Churches In the 1970s Banana attained a BA with honors in theology through distance learning from ...

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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 ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born Ato Jabari Boldon on 30 December 1973 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. He is one of two sons of Guy and Hope Boldon. His father is Trinidadian and his mother is Jamaican. Bolden attended Fatima College, a Catholic boy’s secondary school in Port of Spain, until the family immigrated to Queens, New York, in 1988. He played soccer at Jamaica High School in Queens. His coach, Joe Trupiano, recognized Boldon’s running ability and encouraged him to try out for the track team. In 1990 he clocked 10.8 seconds for 100 meters, 21.4 seconds for 200 meters, and 48.5 seconds for 400 meters. He won the 200 and 400 at the Queens County Championships, and finished third in the 200 at the New York State Championships. Later that year, he moved with his mother to San Jose, California. In 1991 the Piedmont Hills High School ...

Article

Stephen Eschenbach

politician, journalist, and Negro League professional baseball pitcher, was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, one of four children. His father was a Baptist minister and his mother was a nurse. His mother wanted him to pursue medicine, but Brown was interested in sports and studying social problems. After preparing at Howard Academy in Washington, D.C., Brown went to Harvard.

Brown majored in economics but also played baseball, lettering as a left-handed pitcher. He worked his way through Harvard as a janitor and waiter. During summer breaks he was a Red Cap at Grand Central Station in New York, and also played in the Negro Leagues. In 1923 and 1924 he pitched for the New York Lincoln Giants Interestingly Harvard usually aggressive about enforcing early NCAA rules barring athletes from playing professional sports apparently did not punish Brown when he played in the professional ranks before returning to the Harvard baseball ...

Article

Gregory Travis Bond

athlete, football coach, college administrator, lawyer, and public servant, was born in Dabney, North Carolina, to former slaves Jesse Bullock and Amanda Sneed Bullock. Looking for better educational prospects for their seven children and perhaps seeking to escape Ku Klux Klan harassment, his parents moved the family north when Bullock was eight years old. After a brief stay in Boston, the family settled in Everett, Massachusetts, in about 1894, where Bullock first made a name for himself as an athlete. At Everett High School he excelled at football, baseball, and ice hockey, and his teammates elected him to serve as the captain of each of these teams his senior season.

After graduating in 1900 Bullock entered Dartmouth College which like many schools outside of the South admitted black students and encouraged them to participate in the life of the school Bullock took advantage of the wide range ...

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Gregory Travis Bond

athlete, dentist, and politician, was born in Topeka, Kansas, to Gary W. Cable, a teacher and postal worker, and Mary Ellen Montgomery Cable, a public school administrator and civil rights activist. In 1894 the family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Cable attended public school and graduated from integrated Shortridge High School in 1908. He moved on to the exclusive Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire for the next school year and enrolled at Harvard University in 1909.

Cable had not participated in organized athletics in high school, but he tried out for the freshman track team at Harvard and caught the eye of Coach Pat Quinn. With Quinn's guidance, Cable developed rapidly. In the annual Harvard-Yale freshman meet, he won the hammer throw and he also performed well in the 220-yard hurdles and the broad jump (now the long jump) in intramural competitions.

He easily made ...

Article

was born on 1 September 1939 in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic, to Hipólito Jacobo, a sugar mill worker, and Oliva Adriana Carty Schmunth, a midwife. Stories surrounding his birth presaged the ups and downs in Carty’s prestigious career as a major league player. Rumor had it that the newborn Carty weighed 13 pounds and had spent thirteen months in his mother’s womb, the long gestation allegedly the evil work of a woman who had cursed his mother that she would never give birth.

Carty grew up in the Guachupita neighborhood of Consuelo, sometimes listed as his “hometown” in biographical sketches. Consuelo was a sugar mill town founded largely by Anglo-Caribbean cane cutters from the Tortola islands. Carty’s grandfather, Gastón, had left his native San Martin for opportunities in the Consuelo mills and became part of the community known today in the Dominican Republic as cocolos. The cocolos ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born on 9 October 1900 in Cavaillon, Haiti. His name is sometimes recorded as Sylvio. Information about his family and early life is not known, but by the early 1920s he was one of the country’s leading soccer players, appearing for Trivoli Athletic Club and Racing Club Haitian, as well as the Haitian national team.

Cator excelled, however, in track and field, especially the long jump, in which he represented Haiti three times at the Olympic Games. At the 1924 Games in Paris France he competed in both the high jump and the long jump In the high jump Cator cleared 1 75 meters 5 feet 9 inches in the qualifying round but failed to advance to the finals finishing in a tie for fifteenth in the overall standings Entering the long jump competition with a personal best of 7 43 meters 24 feet 4½ inches the Haitian ...

Article

Donald Scott

educator, activist, and baseball pioneer, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to Sara Isabella Cain, a woman from a prosperous mixed-race family, and William T. Catto, a Presbyterian minister. When Catto was about five years old, his father relocated the family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after being “called” to the city by the Presbytery and after some time to the ministry of the First African Presbyterian Church, a historic black church formed by the Reverend John Gloucester, a former slave, in 1807.

As a youngster Catto attended a number of Philadelphia-area public schools, including the Vaux Primary School. By 1854, though, he was enrolled in the newly opened Institute for Colored Youth, the forerunner of historically black Cheyney University, just south of Philadelphia.

William Catto and other black ministers convinced the Quaker administration to focus on classical topics including Latin Greek and mathematics and not just ...

Article

Curt Johnson

professional soccer player, later became the charismatic leader of the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA; Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) forces in eastern Angola during the Angolan Revolution. He subsequently broke with the leadership of the MPLA and led a faction opposed to MPLA President Dr. Agostinho Neto. In the Angolan Civil War, his faction was allied with Holden Roberto’s Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola (FNLA; Front for the National Liberation of Angola) and Jonas Savimbi’s União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA; National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) against Neto’s MPLA.

Daniel Júlio Chipenda, an Ovimbundu, was the son of Jesse Chipenda, a prominent Protestant clergyman and activist who died in a Portuguese prison camp in 1969 The younger Chipenda associated with Angolan dissidents in Luanda He later was a popular student athlete at Coimbra University in Portugal 1958 ...

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Paul K. Sutton

was born on 21 September 1901 in Diego Martin, near Port of Spain, Trinidad. His father, Lebrun Constantine, was an overseer on a coconut estate and, according to C. L. R. James (1963), “the most loved and famous cricketer in the island” (p. 103) selected to play for the first West Indian team to tour England in 1900. His mother, Anaise Pascall, was the daughter of slaves.

Learie was intensively coached in cricket by his father from an early age and began playing amateur club cricket for Shannon, the team of the lower black middle class, which was captained by his father, when he was 15. He also attended St Ann’s Government School, Port of Spain, until he was 12; then he attended St. Anne’s Roman Catholic School and captained the cricket team there in 1916 and 1917 during which time only one game was ...

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Sports critics and fans hailed Learie Nicholas Constantine as one of the best fieldsmen, hardest batsmen, and greatest bowlers in the history of cricket. This popularity assisted his later political career. He secured a position as a civil servant and later as a peer in Great Britain. He also served in Trinidad as a legislator, minister, and ambassador.

Constantine was born in Trinidad to Anaise Pascal and Lebrun Constantine, a plantation foreman and famous cricketer who played for the West Indian team in England in 1900 and 1906. Learie Constantine played cricket as a boy, but upon his father's advice did not pursue a professional sports career until he had first completed his education at the age of fifteen and gained some experience working in legal services. Finally, he joined the West Indian team and played in England in 1923 and 1928.

In 1929 Constantine ...

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David Killingray

Cricketer, politician, and broadcaster born into a middle‐class family in Trinidad. When he left school, he became a clerk in a local company, a post he held for the next ten years until 1927, the year he married Norma Cox. His father was a good cricketer and Constantine also became an excellent fielder. He played for his school and as a member of the Trinidad team in inter‐colonial matches; he was selected for the West Indies team to tour England in 1923, and again in 1928. During that tour Constantine's distinguishing moment came in the match against Middlesex in June 1928 when his skills as bowler, fielder, and scorer enabled the West Indies to defeat their opponents by three wickets. C. L. R. James wrote of him he took 100 wickets made 1 000 runs and laid claim to being the finest fieldsman ever ...

Article

Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

basketball player, was born Charles Henry Cooper in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the youngest of five children of Daniel Webster Cooper, a mailman, and Emma Caroline Brown, a schoolteacher.

Cooper played basketball at Westinghouse High School in segregated East Pittsburgh. After graduating in February 1944, Cooper attended West Virginia State College, a historically black institution. He played basketball from 1944 to 1945, until he was drafted into the U.S. Navy. He served from July 1945 to October 1946.

Upon leaving the Navy, Cooper attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh on the GI Bill and graduated in 1950 with a B.S. in Education. Although Duquesne was a predominantly white university, it was an early leader in the recruitment of black athletes. Cooper made the basketball team, The Dukes, when only a freshman. He was their first black starter and an All-American. As captain in 1949–1950 he led ...