Taylor: The Civil War, civil rights, and black baseball

From Shakeia Taylor at The Hardball Times on July 6, 2018:

For many, the conversation of black baseball and civil rights begins and ends with integration. The hardships endured by Jackie Robinson as he broke the color barrier, along with the slow march to integrate other greats of the Negro Leagues, occupies much of the popular imagination. But the story is much much older than that. African-Americans were playing baseball at least 100 years before Jackie donned Dodger blue. Baseball, which played a vital role in northern Black communities before the Civil War, and was an important part of camp life during the war, was tied to African-American agitation for civil and political rights following the war.

During the 1840s and 1850s, Black ballplayers shared in the baseball mania that was spreading in the northeast. While many northern Blacks were impoverished, others could afford the time and expense of forming and joining their own ball clubs. In 1859, white, antislavery Republican Joshua Giddings, a congressman from Ohio, showed his support for desegregation and equality in baseball by playing in a game with African-Americans. By that year, African-Americans had formed three clubs in the Brooklyn area: the Unknown of Weeksville, the Henson of Jamaica, and the Monitor of Brooklyn. They were followed soon after by the Uniques and the Union, both of Williamsburgh.

The Civil War didn’t disrupt the game; indeed, it spread the burgeoning pastime. The war promulgated the game socially, economically and geographically due to the large number of young men in army camps. Soldiers from different parts of the country taught the game to those from regions the game had yet to reach. During the War, soldiers often played integrated baseball games to pass the time. Once Black soldiers returned from war, baseball would remain an important site of coming together for Black communities, drawing the notice of prominent leaders and serving as a literal field on which to agitate for change and inclusion

Read the full article here: https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/the-civil-war-civil-rights-and-black-baseball/

Originally published: July 6, 2018. Last Updated: July 6, 2018.