Breaking the colour barrier

Torcia Velthuizen
By Torcia Velthuizen February 9, 2018 12:13

By Torcia Velthuizen

The Chimczuk Museum revealed a new exhibit on Feb. 1 to kick off Black History Month.

Breaking the Colour Barrier: Wilfred “Boomer” Harding and the Chatham Coloured All-Stars highlights the first all black baseball team to win a provincial championship, despite the challenges facing people of colour in the 1930s.

“Sports were highly segregated at the time. Professional teams would not accept black players. Even at the amateur level, black players were not welcome on white teams. So this team just sort of formed on their own,” said Miriam Wright, an associate professor at the University of Windsor.

Wright said the team started to play exhibition games in 1932, traveling to other towns and playing against whoever would play them. In 1933 a local representative for the OBA got them into the Chatham City League.

“In 1934, just their second year in the league, they won the championship. So the exhibit is really telling that story,” said Wright.

Wright was at an event talking about history and the community when she was approached by Pat Harding, the daughter-in-law of the late Wilfred Harding, who said they had scrapbooks they wanted to digitize.

“As we got into the story, as we started to get through the material in the scrapbooks, we were blown away by the quality of the story and the relevance of the story that nobody really knows about. We were originally just going to create a quick little website,” said Heidi Jacobs, co-director of the project.

Jacobs said the website has interviews from people who knew the team and an interview from Wilfred Harding from 1977. Harding was also the first black player in the International Amateur Hockey League.

What started out as a website is now an exhibit of eight banners telling the story of the Chatham Coloured All-Stars. First displayed in Chatham, it will be available for viewing at the Chimczuk Museum until March 31 and is available for loan to schools and other institutions.

The website can be viewed at http://cdigs.uwindsor.ca/BreakingColourBarrier/

Torcia Velthuizen
By Torcia Velthuizen February 9, 2018 12:13

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