lawyer, government official, and college athlete, was born in Berkley, Virginia, the eldest son of Ashley Henry and Josephine Baker, both former slaves. Not long after William's birth the family moved to Portsmouth, where Ashley Henry became a minister in the Ebenezer Baptist Church. In 1885 William enrolled in the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute in Petersburg, a school for the children of Virginia's African American elites established to fulfill a campaign promise made by the Virginia Readjuster Party, which through a coalition of Republican whites and newly freed African Americans had won control of the state government. At Virginia Normal, William found a mentor in the school's president, John Mercer Langston. When Democrats came back into power in Virginia in 1887, Langston was fired. William Lewis led a delegation of students to Richmond where they received an audience with Governor Fitzhugh Lee ...
Evan J. Albright
Alonford James Robinson
Foot racing was a common feature of early American slave society. In the narratives of former slaves foot racing is recounted as a popular sport on southern plantations. In one such narrative, former slave Frederick Douglass described the popularity of sports such as Boxing, wrestling, and foot racing in his autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881; revised 1892).
Since most sporting competitions during slavery were segregated, the opportunities for blacks to compete against whites in foot races were limited. However, in the 1830s the Highland Games—organized by Scottish American civic groups—and colored branches of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) featured inter-racial and inter-ethnic competition. Foot racing and fast walking (pedestrianism) were among the events in which African American athletes excelled.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century the performance of African American short and long distance runners were celebrated moments. Francis ...