First African American in Professional Baseball - August 2006

Question

My teacher said that Bud Fowler should get credit as the first African American to play professional baseball. Is she right?

-- Kilpatrick Layne, Frisco, Texas

Answer

Bud Fowler

Black Americans played baseball throughout the 1800's, and by the 1860's notable Black amateur teams such as the Colored Union Club (of Brooklyn) and the Pythian Club (of Philadelphia) had formed. All-Black professional teams began in the 1880s, among them the St. Louis Black Stockings and the Cuban Giants (of New York). Reflecting American society in general, amateur and professional baseball remained largely segregated.

During the 1890s, most professional Black players were limited to playing in exhibition games on "colored" teams on the barnstorming circuit. Players on major league teams also barnstormed in cities and towns after the regular season was over. In some places Black teams and White teams played each other, and some Blacks played for all-Black teams in otherwise all-White leagues.

August 2006 response by Todd Bolton, Negro League Baseball Players Association Historian

Negro League Baseball Players Association Web Site