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Pamela Lee Gray

wood carver, sculptor, and folk artist, was born Jesse James Aaron in Lake City, Florida, to descendants of slaves and Seminole Indians. Aaron attended school for less than one year before he was sent to work as a contract laborer for local farms. Trained as a baker when he was twenty-one years old, he found he enjoyed the creativity it required. He opened several bakeries, worked as a cook at Gainesville's Hotel Thomas from 1933 to 1937, and then cooked for a variety of fraternities and hospitals in Florida. Aaron also worked as a cook aboard the Seaboard Air Line Railroad during this time.

Aaron married Leeanna Jenkins, and when the family settled in northwest Gainesville in the 1930s they opened a nursery. From this point until 1968 when Aaron became a folk artist at the age of eighty one it is difficult to determine what is ...

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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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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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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 ...

Article

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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Allison Kellar

actor, singer, and philanthropist, was born Etta Moten in Weimar, Texas, the only daughter of Reverend Freeman F. Moten and Ida Norman Moten. The ten-year-old Etta took an active part in church, singing in the choral group and instructing Sunday-school lessons. Standing on a makeshift step stool, in order to be at the same height level as the rest of the choir, she shared her voice with the congregation.

After high school Barnett wedded Lieutenant Curtis Brooks During their seven year marriage she had four children one of whom died at birth Following in the footsteps of her college educated parents she attended the University of Kansas in the 1920s however in order to receive her education Barnett had to sacrifice her conventional family life She divorced her husband and left her three daughters under her parents supervision while she attended school On weekends she cared ...

Article

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

Paul S. Boyer and Ronald Story

Americans had played bat-and-ball games for decades when, in 1845, Alexander Cartwright of New York devised the rules—foul lines, nine innings, three outs, ninety-foot basepaths—that created modern baseball. Cartwright's game quickly became popular with young clerks and urban craftsmen. By 1860, baseball had spread throughout the Northeast, and by 1870 to the rest of the nation.

The first teams were amateur, organized by men's clubs, the games ending with dinner and drinks. Some players earned good money from ambitious clubs, which charged admission in order to pay the players. The first wholly professional team was the Cincinnati (Ohio) Red Stockings of 1869, whose manager, Harry Wright, hired every player. Taking advantage of the burgeoning railroad system to tour the country, they challenged and defeated all teams they faced that year. In 1876, entrepreneurs formed the National League (NL), with salaried players and profit-seeking owners.

Baseball ...

Article

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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Boxing  

Michael Ezra

Perhaps no sport has influenced African American culture and society more than boxing. Long before the sport was formalized, slaves worked as prizefighters, sometimes gaining their freedom if they earned their masters enough money and prestige through their exploits in the ring. The first American to compete for the world heavyweight championship was Bill Richmond, a black man and former slave, who took on and lost to England's Tom Cribb in 1805. The former slave Tom Molineaux, who gained his emancipation through pugilism, also challenged Cribb for the crown, losing bouts in 1810 and 1811. Long before their official participation in other professional sports, African Americans were making their mark in the prize ring.

Although boxing was the most popular spectator sport in the United States from the late 1840s until the Civil War blacks were excluded from the big money contests that captured the public ...

Article

Boxing.  

Elliott J. Gorn

Prizefighting began in England, where by the late eighteenth century it was acknowledged as the “national sport” but was also illegal. Boxers fought with bare knuckles, most forms of wrestling and hitting were permitted, and fights lasted until one or both contestants quit or could not continue. Tom Molineaux, a free black, was the first great American fighter. In two matches in England in 1810 and 1811, Molineaux came close to defeating the English champion Tom Cribb. Becoming famous in England, Molineaux remained virtually unknown to Americans, who initially showed little interest in the prize ring. This changed in the mid–nineteenth century as a modern working class, including many immigrants from England and Ireland, arose in American cities. A series of matches culminated with an 1849 championship fight, tinged with ethnic antipathy, between James “Yankee” Sullivan, an Irish immigrant, and the native-born Tom Hyer Hyer ...

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

Michael L. Krenn

boxer, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Little is known about his early life or his parents, except that the family lived on the brink of poverty.

Brown worked a number of different jobs—carpentry among them—before beginning his boxing career in 1943 in New Orleans, winning a four-round decision. Almost immediately, however, his participation in the professional sport was cut short when he was drafted to fight in World War II. Brown spent nearly two years in the U.S. Navy—most of it in the Pacific Theater—during which time he continued to box, finally winning the All-Service Lightweight Championship before his discharge in 1945. Following his return to civilian life, in 1946 Brown threw himself back into professional prizefighting averaging from seven to twelve fights a year sometimes with only a week s rest between bouts Despite his enthusiasm and seemingly limitless energy his career did not get off ...

Article

Byron Motley

baseball player-manager, was the youngest of two children born to Charlie Brown and Viola Brannon in Pratt City, Alabama. Little is known about Larry's father, a man of mixed race with whom he had little to no relationship. His mother, a domestic worker, was his rock. Upon her death in 1918 thirteen-year-old Brown was left to raise himself and found employment with a local meat-packing company. The youngster began playing with the company's all-black team and soon found the baseball diamond to be his refuge.

At age seventeen Brown began barnstorming with the Knoxville Giants and later with the Pittsburgh Keystones. His official rookie season in the Negro Leagues was in 1923 when he joined the Indianapolis ABCs. On 28 May 1923 after only nine games he was released because of poor performance A few weeks later Brown found himself in a Memphis Red Sox uniform and although ...

Article

Ronald Young

baseball player known as Willard “Home Run” Brown, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of Manuel and Allie Brown.

As a youngster, Brown sometimes worked as a batboy for the Kansas City Monarchs, the renowned Negro League baseball team that held its spring training in Shreveport. In 1934, Brown signed his first professional contract to pitch and play shortstop with the Monroe Monarchs of the Negro Southern League. Brown earned $8 per week.

After one season with Monroe, Brown joined the Kansas City Monarchs for the 1935 season. The Monarchs, one of the leading black ball clubs of the era, paid him a $250 signing bonus, a $125 per month salary, and $1 per day for meals. He soon developed into one of the team's star players. During the 1936 season Brown was selected to play in the East West All Star game an honor he ...

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 ...