Archival film of African-American baseball game screened at Hall of Fame

From Online Athens on June 18, 2014, with mention of SABR members Jim Gates and Leslie Heaphy:

As a film archivist with the University of Georgia, Margaret Compton came across the oldest-known moving images of African-Americans playing baseball. Now she’s hoping others will join her in the search for earlier films.

The 26-second home movie of a baseball game played by African-American employees at Pebble Hill Plantation near Thomasville was screened recently at the 26th Annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. Compton presented her research into the film for the symposium’s panel, “Searching for the Holy Grail,” focusing on how she determined the 28 mm film dates from around 1919 from a variety of clues in the home movie collection as well as historic materials at Pebble Hill.

“To date, we have not heard of any earlier film footage of blacks playing baseball, nor have we heard of any other existing plantation employees’ baseball games on film, but we are always hoping to find more,” Compton said. “Showing the film at the Cooperstown Symposium helps spread the word to scholars and enthusiasts who can join in the search.”

The film is part of the Pebble Hill Plantation Film Collection in the UGA Libraries Walter J. Brown Media Archives.

“This is a remarkable piece of film,” said Jim Gates, library director at the Hall of Fame and co-organizer of the Symposium, “and it generated quite a bit of discussion among the symposium participants.”

Also on the symposium’s panel was Leslie Heaphy, a history professor at Kent State University and one of the pre-eminent scholars of Negro Leagues baseball. He discussed what kinds of evidence, history and ephemera of black baseball that scholars are seeking.

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Originally published: June 19, 2014. Last Updated: June 19, 2014.