First Known Integrated (Adult) Club Takes the Field

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Awaiting Review
Date 1865
Location Florence, MA, United States
Description

Luther B. Askin of Florence, MA (a hamlet of fewer than 1500 souls lying about 2 miles W of Northampton and about 90 miles W of Boston) is thought to be the first adult of African lineage to play on an integrated team in a standard match game.  The first baseman is listed in box-scores of the first 13 matches played by the Florence Eagles Club in 1865.

Florence is recalled as one of the centers of Anti-Slavery activism in those times. The next earliest known instance of integration occurred in 1869 in Oberlin, OH, also a center of Anti-Slavery activism (see Ryczek, When Johnny Came Sliding Home, 1998, page 102).  Further instances of early integration might be found in communities that held similar views.

Brian notes in 2014 that juvenile clubs were apparently less unlikely to engage in integrated play, even prior to the Civil War. The son of Frederick Douglass, for instance, is known to have played on a white junior club in Rochester NY in 1859.  Luther Askin also played on such juvenile teams prior to the Civil War.

 

Sources

Brian Turner, "America's Earliest Integrated Team?" National Pastime,Number 22 (2002), pages 81-90.

Brian Turner (email to Protoball, 2/1/2014), has supplementary data on early integrated play, and he reports that the 1865 game evidently remains the earliest known case of integrated adult play in a standard game.  

Submitted by Larry McCray



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