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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 ...


basketball player, was the only child born to his parents in Little Rock, Arkansas. His parents’ names and occupations are not recorded. When he was six years old, his mother moved him to Chicago, where he was raised by her and his aunt. Clifton, whose nickname originated with his predilection for sugary-flavored drinks like soda pop, also had a name change in high school. Born Clifton Nathaniel, he was warned by reporters who covered his basketball games that the last name of “Nathaniel” was too long for sports summaries. Subsequently, Clifton reversed his names.

By his sophomore year Clifton was already 6 feet, 5 inches (he would grow another 2 inches in total), and he became a dominant force on the DuSable High School basketball team. During DuSable's run at the Chicago city championship in his senior year (1942 Clifton dazzled in both the semifinal against Austin scoring ...


Susan J. Rayl

professional basketball player, was born Charles Theodore Cooper in Newark, Delaware, the son of Theodore Cooper and Evelyn (whose maiden name is unknown). He was a standout for the Central High School basketball team in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1925. Cooper immediately began a twenty-year career in professional basketball, playing initially with the Philadelphia Panther Pros in 1925, then going on to star for the all-black Philadelphia Giants from 1926 to 1929. Robert Douglas, owner of the famed all-black professional team the New York Renaissance, spotted Cooper in a game at Philadelphia and signed him the next day to play for his team. Cooper then began an eleven-year stint with the Rens, named for their home court, the Renaissance Ballroom in Harlem. Over these eleven years the Rens earned a record of 1,303 wins and 203 losses.

At six feet four inches Cooper was ...


basketball player, was the third of five children born to John DeJernett, a day laborer, and Mary Woods, a housewife. Though born in Garfield, Kentucky, as a baby DeJernett was moved with his family to Washington, Indiana, when his father found employment repairing railroad tracks on the B&O line that had been damaged during the Great Dayton Flood of 1913, one of the worst natural disasters in Ohio's history.

DeJernett grew up in a working-class neighborhood, and attended the segregated Dunbar Elementary School before entering the junior high school section of the integrated Washington High School. In 1925 the high school hired Burl Friddle, a celebrated Indiana high school and college basketball player, to coach the team and teach physical education. Friddle immediately saw that DeJernett's height and jumping ability would suit him well on the basketball team, and recruited the novice for the team.

Though DeJernett was ...


Samuel W. Black

athlete and physical director, was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, one of eight children of Allen Dorsey, a shipping clerk, and Mary C. Sparksman. Allegheny City was later incorporated as part of Pittsburgh's north side. The five Dorsey brothers would all earn reputations as accomplished athletes in Pittsburgh's sporting community in the early twentieth century.

As a child Dorsey showed an interest in sports while watching students play basketball in the basement gym of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. After the death of his father in 1905, he went to work to help support his family. The following year, while working as a janitor on a north side estate, he secretly opened the estate gymnasium for pickup basketball games and soon organized a team with practices held on Sundays. Two of the players who attended were the future Homestead Grays baseball legends Cum Posey and Sellers ...


Greta Koehler

professional basketball player, was born William Penn Gates in Decatur, Alabama. Gates moved to New York City with his family when he was three and grew up playing basketball at the Harlem YMCA. Interestingly he did not owe his nickname to this game but earned it from playing stickball with boys who thought he was older than he was. He attended Benjamin Franklin High School and helped the school's basketball team win the Public Schools Athletic League championship in 1938.

Following his graduation, Gates briefly attended Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia, but quickly went back to New York because he “didn't like the barriers of prejudice down there” (New York Times, 19 Feb. 1989 The 6 foot 3 inch forward and guard started playing with the Harlem Yankees Soon thereafter the all black Harlem Renaissance who had seen him practice bought Gates s contract for ...


Rita Liberti

basketball player and teacher, was born in Bennett, North Carolina, the eighth of ten children of William Green Glover, a farmer and lumberjack, and Carrie Marsh. As a youngster Ruth acquired and honed her basketball skills, playing with her brothers on a makeshift court in the family's yard. These experiences helped prepare her for the competitive basketball she played in high school and college. Glover graduated from Chatham County High School in Siler City, North Carolina, in 1933 and then earned a BA in Elementary Education from Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1937.

The year Glover entered Chatham County High School a girls basketball team was established providing female students at the all black school the same opportunities their peers already had at the all white Siler City High School Glover eager to test the skills learned playing informally with her brothers signed up immediately ...


Dolph H. Grundman

basketball player, was born in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, the son of Matthew, a laborer, and Hattie Haynes. When Marques was four his father left the family so that he was raised by his mother and two older brothers and a sister. Since Oklahoma was a segregated state, Haynes attended segregated schools. His introduction to basketball began when he accompanied his sister, Cecil, to her basketball practices. As an elementary school student Haynes walked over to Booker T. Washington High School and watched his older brother, Wendell, compete. By his junior year in high school Haynes made the varsity team which won the National Negro High School tournament played in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941 He played well enough to win a spot on the all tournament s second team At Booker T Washington High School Haynes played football and basketball In his senior year Haynes ...


basketball player, was the first of three children born to William Lew, the owner of a dry-cleaning store, and Isabelle F. Lew in Lowell, Massachusetts. The first African American to play professional basketball, Lew spent twenty-eight years in the game as a player, coach, and referee.

Lew's family was entwined in historic American moments: His great-great-grandfather Barzillai Lew fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill in the American Revolution; his grandparents’ home was a stop on the Underground Railroad; and civil-rights activists, teachers, and musicians were scattered throughout his ancestry.

Known as much for his proclivity for the violin as athletics at Moody Grammar School, Lew worked at his father's business after graduating in 1902. Lew had been playing with the Lowell YMCA's basketball team since 1898 where he built up a reputation as an adroit guard When Lowell s Pawtucketville Athletic Club of the New England Professional ...


Dolph H. Grundman

basketball player, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, the son of Theodore Lloyd, a laborer, and Daisy (Mitchell) Lloyd, a domestic. The Virginia of Lloyd's youth was deeply segregated. In 1942 he entered Parker-Gray High School in Alexandria, where he played basketball, baseball, and football. At Parker-Gray, Lloyd was profoundly influenced by Lewis Randolph Johnson, who coached all of the school's sports. By 1946, when Lloyd graduated from high school, he had scholarship offers from all of the black colleges and universities along the Atlantic coast. Since Coach Johnson was a graduate of West Virginia State College in Institute just outside Charleston, Lloyd took his mentor's advice and entered the black college in West Virginia. He was the first member of his family to attend college.

At West Virginia State, Lloyd found a caring faculty and another skilled coach, Mark Cardwell The Yellow Jackets played ...


David F. Smydra

basketball coach, was born John B. McLendon Jr. in Hiawatha, Kansas. McLendon obtained a piecemeal education, steadily taking advantage of each opportunity that he was offered. He graduated from Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1932 and entered Kansas City Junior College. He finished his BS in Physical Education at the University of Kansas in 1936 and earned a master's degree from the University of Iowa in 1937. One of McLendon's professors in the physical education program at Kansas was Dr. James Naismith, who had invented the game of basketball in 1891, while he was a student at the International YMCA Training School (now Springfield College), in Springfield, Massachusetts.

In his undergraduate years, McLendon took a couple of high school coaching jobs in Lawrence and Topeka Following his graduate studies he was hired as an assistant basketball coach at the North Carolina College ...


Kenneth R. Fenster

baseball player, was born Nathaniel Peeples in Memphis, Tennessee, the youngest of seven children of a barber and a housewife, whose names are not known. He grew up in Memphis and in 1944 graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, where he excelled in sports. From 1944 to 1946 Peeples served in the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor, where he played baseball against numerous major leaguers. For the next three years he attended LeMoyne College in Memphis, where he majored in mathematics and starred as a halfback on the football team. In 1948 he dropped out of school after signing a contract to play professional baseball with the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. From 1949 to 1951 he was a reserve catcher and outfielder with two legendary Negro League teams, the Kansas City Monarchs and the Indianapolis Clowns.

In June 1951 the Brooklyn Dodgers bought ...


Jason Philip Miller

athlete, was born Wilmeth Webb in Washington, DC, the son of Elias, a pharmacist, and Pauline Miner. In 1925 Elias died of stroke, and Pauline subsequently remarried. Her new husband was Samuel Sidat-Singh, a medical doctor of West Indian descent. He adopted Wilmeth and moved the family to Harlem, New York, where Wilmeth was raised and attended school. Even as a young man, Wilmeth showed great promise as an athlete. By the time he was attending high school at New York's DeWitt Clinton, he was a basketball star. In 1934 he led his team to a New York Public High School Athletic League championship. He was offered a basketball scholarship to Syracuse University, to which he matriculated in 1935. He was also recruited by the school's football coach, and soon he was playing on the gridiron as well as the hardwood.

College sports at the ...


Bailey Thomas Player

professional basketball and baseball player, was born in South Bend, Indiana. Theodore “Ted” Strong was quickly initiated into the culture of basketball for which Indiana was recognized. By the age of eighteen he already had gained the height and skill required to play professionally and quickly became the team captain of the Harlem Globetrotters. Strong's large hands gave him the unique ability to “palm” the ball; thus, he was deemed the team's “pitcher,” hurling remarkably accurate full-court passes to teammates waiting under the basket. Like many other Globetrotters (sixteen players in the team's early history), Strong used the basketball season to get in shape for the upcoming baseball season; by age twenty he had been signed to play with the Indianapolis Athletics. Yet Strong would continue to be an integral part of the Globetrotters for more than a decade.

Strong however proved to be just as skilled in ...


Kenneth H. Williams

basketball entertainer, was born Reece Tatum in Union County, Arkansas, the son of a farmer who served as a traveling Methodist preacher on the weekends. Tatum admitted that the 1921 birth date was “an estimate,” and claimed not to have a birth certificate. Some guessed that he was as much as ten years older.

Although gangly, Tatum was an athletic youth while growing up around the Arkansas towns of Calion and El Dorado. He got his nickname as a teenager when he leaped to catch a pass during a touch football game, prompting an onlooker to yell “look at that ol' Goose fly.” He also played a little basketball, but his best sport was baseball, and after high school he took a job with a sawmill in the Ozarks that fielded a semiprofessional team.

The origins of Tatum s professional baseball career are unclear but one story is that ...


Pamela Grundy

tennis and basketball player, was born Ora Belle Washington in Caroline County, Virginia, the daughter of John Thomas Washington, a farmer and house plasterer, and Laura Young. Ora, the fifth of nine children, attended the File School in Caroline County and the Chicago Presbyterian Training School. She lived on the family farm until she was in her teens, when she and an older sister moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where one of her aunts had settled and where many of her relatives would later go to live. The 1920 census recorded that Washington lived as a domestic worker in a Philadelphia home.

Although Washington did not travel to Philadelphia with dreams of athletic stardom she arrived at an opportune time for gifted African American athletes The prosperity of the 1920s sparked a boom in many sports and because African Americans were barred from many mainstream sporting endeavors they ...


Charles Rosenberg

and the only formerly enslaved man to play Major League Baseball in the United States, was born in Milner, Georgia, the son of Andrew Jackson (A.J.) White, a wealthy plantation owner and railroad president, and a woman who by the laws of Georgia at the time was his chattel property, named Hannah.

Andrew White’s will, written in 1877, left his entire estate to White, and his sisters, Anna Nora White and Sarah Adelaide White, “the children of my servant Hannah,” to be educated at schools in the North. The 1880 census shows Hannah White still living in Andrew White’s household in Georgia, listed as servant. The work of Peter Morris, for the Society of American Baseball Research, indicates that Hannah White had both African and European ancestors (her mother, Sarah, believed to be fully “black,” was born in Maryland around 1820 and her children likely about 75 percent ...