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This page acknowledges important people and events leading up to equal treatment in sports...

Why is this a civil rights topic?
Color Barriers in sports were and still remain a civil rights topic. Since the start of organized sports, racial discrimination has hindered many athletes. Jackie Robinson was considered the first to break through the barrier of sports when he broke baseball's color barrier. Today, there is still racial prejudice involving sports. Referees in basketball have been accused of favoring players because of their race, and fans still show prejudice against certain ethnic groups.
On this page, Aidan and Shane have compiled information about civil rights and the impact it had on sports. You will find articles we have written about important people, and a timeline that lists crucial events in sports that impacted the civil rights movement throughout history.

What our Visitors will learn.....
After visiting our Civil Rights exhibit we hope you will take away a sense of knowledge about the history of African Americans and Native Americans in sports. You will also gain information about the hardships that many athletes encountered while breaking color barriers in a variety of activities. We also hope that visitors will be exposed to what is happening today and the impact that these extraordinary athletes have on their respective sports.
Aidan Sullivan and Shane Ryan

Aidan's Virtual Legacy: Jackie Robinson.

Shane's Virtual Legacy: Tommie Smith



Important People...

Here are some important people who broke color barriers in sports and made a difference in the civil rights movement.

Jackie Robinson

Robinson was the first black baseball player to play in the major leagues. He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers after a long and successful career in the American Negro Leagues. Robinson was known for his tremendous speed on the bases and great hitting and amazing fielding. Above all, he is known for his courage and bravery when he broke the color barrier in baseball on April 15, 1947. Above is a virtual legacy to Jackie Robinson's marvelous career that gives information on his entire life from when he was born to when he died on October 24, 1947.
"Jackie Robinson." World Book Encyclopedia. CD-Rom. World Book 2006.

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Tommie Smith
Tommie Smith won the 200 meter sprint at the 1968 Olympics with setting a new record of 19.83 seconds. On the podium he and John Carlos raised a black gloved fist to represent black power.

John Shippen

John Shippen is known as the first professional African American golfer in U.S. history. Shippen was born on 1879 in Washington, D.C. and was one of nine kids in his family. His love for golf began while he was working at the Shinnecock Hill golf club. There he met Willie Dunn who taught Shippen to play. He soon became the assistant pro at the club and entered the U.S. Open at age 16. The open took place at the Shinnecock Hills country club in Southampton, NY. His entrance into the event aroused a disturbance among fellow golfers who threatened to not play if Shippen were allowed to. Theodore Havemeyer, president of the USGA, convinced all tournament players to let the debate go. In July of 1896, the first day of the U.S. Open began. Shippen shot a 78 which tied him with four others for the tournament lead. After his impressive first day, Shippens young age and inexperience showed when he shot a final round 81. Shippens 36 hole total of 159 put him seven strokes off the winner: James Foulis. Shippens extraordinary talent and courage through all adversity throughout his career puts him among some of the very most important athletes who broke color barriers. Because of his efforts, today the best golfers in the world such as Vijah Sing and Tiger Woods are able to play the sport of golf regardless of their skin color.

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(Above) John Shippen.

Louis Sockalexis

Sockalexis, born October 24, 1971 on Indian Island, ME, was the first Native American baseball player in the major leagues. He played for the Cleveland Spiders of the National League for three years. Sockalexis attended Holy Cross and excelled in football, track and especially baseball. Soon, he transferred to Notre Dame in 1896. Unfortunately, he was expelled from the school after he destroyed a local brothel after a women said he would not be served because he was a "red man." His wrong doings at that time did not stop him from succeeding in baseball. On March 9, 1897, he was signed by the Cleveland Spiders. During his time in the majors he received much prejudice and taunting from fans. Sockalexis ignored the racial remarks and soon became a popular player in Cleveland. Louis Sockalexis's career ended because of drinking problems which afterwards took his life on December 24, 1913 in Burlington, ME. Louis Sockalexis is known for his extraordinary talent in baseball and for the legacy he left on the sport today. Because of his hard work, stars like Jim Thorpe were able to more easily play professional sports. The efforts of Louis Sockalexis have now led to a more diverse atmosphere in pro-baseball today.

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Jesse Owens
Jesse Owens was born in Oakville, Alabama in 1913. Jesse Owens competed in the 1936 Olympics at Berlin, Germany and won four gold metals. Owens performances in the Olympics were embarrassing for Hitler who thought German athletes would dominate. He also set records in the 200 meter and the broad jump (long jump). He jumped 26 feet 5 1/2 inches in the Olympics. He set seven world records in his career. He attended Ohio State University from 1933-1936 when he excelled in track and field. He died on March 31, 1980.

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(Above) Jesse Owens competing in the broad jump.

Watch Jessie Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics!

Althea Gibson
Althea Gibson, was the first African American women tennis player to compete in the world tennis tour. Gibson is remembered as the "Jackie Robinson of tennis" for her efforts through much discrimination, along with her ability to break the color barrier for black women in tennis. Althea Gibson was born on August 25, 1927 in Silver, South Carolina. Throughout her childhood, she was always in trouble and grew up in a poor family living on welfare. Althea had a love for sports and excelled in basketball, golf and especially tennis. In 1946, Althea moved to Wilmington, NC where her love for tennis grew. With help from sponsors, and family, Althea went on to win ten straight National Championships even with the color barrier in tennis holding her back for some time. After graduating from Florida A&M, she finally got to compete with the best tennis players in the world. In 1955, she won the Italian Championships and soon went on to win the French Championship the following year in singles and doubles. Angela Buxton, her partner in doubles was of jewish descent and experienced some of the same discrimination Althea did. They both became the first jewish and African American woman to win Wimbeldon. In 1971, after a great career Althea was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In Gibsons years after she encountered many health problems. In 2003 she died at age 75 in East Orange, New Jersey. Because of Gibson's amazing efforts to break the color barrier in tennis for men and women, today athletes like Serena and Venus Williams are recognized as some of the worlds' greatest athletes.

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Althea Gibson.

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson was born March 31, 1878 in Galveston, Texas. His first fight was a 16-round victory at the age of 15. Soon after he turned pro in 1897. He had a unique style of fighting. He began the fight cautiously and played more defensively and waited for his opponent to make a mistake and capitalized on it. He started slowly building up over the rounds and he became more aggressive. He fought to punish his opponents rather than knock them out. He had at least 50 wins by 1902. He beat "Denver" Ed Martin over a 20 round fight for the colored championship on February 3, 1903. James J. Jeffries the World Heavyweight Champion at the time who was white refused to fight him. In 1908 on December 26, he won the World Heavyweight Championship when he defeated the Canadian Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia. When Burns was going to fall to the ground Johnson would pick him up and beat him more severely. He beat Victor McLaglen, Frank Moran, Tony Ross, Al Kaufman and middleweight champion Stanley Ketchel in 1909. In 1910 James J. Jeffries came out of retirement to fight Jack Johnson and said "I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro." This fight was known as the "Fight of the Century" earned Johnson $225,000 and silenced the critics. On April 5, 1915 Johnson lost his title to Jess Wilard when he was K.O.'d in the 26th round of a scheduled 45 round fight. He died in 1946 at age 68.

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Jack Johnson.

Career stats:
Total fights
113 (14 No Decisions)
Wins by KO
No contests

Did you know?
-Lee Elder was the first African American golfer to compete in the Masters when he did so in 1975.
-Emmet Ashford, in 1951 became the first black umpire in Major League Baseball.
-Jack Johnson was the first African American to win the heavyweight championship.
-On May 12, 1955 Sam Jones became the first African American pitcher in Major League Baseball history to throw a no hitter.
-The last Negro League teams played in 1960. After this, the Negro Leagues were abolished.