The Little League Champions Benched by Jim Crow in 1955: Resistance and Reform After Brown v. Board of Education
38 Journal of Supreme Court History 51 (2013)
24 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2015
This article tells a little known story that began in South Carolina in 1955, a few months after the Supreme Court handed down Brown v. Board of Education. The story concerns the Cannon Street YMCA All Stars Little League team, which Little League Baseball, Inc. today calls “the most significant amateur team in baseball history.” The 11-12-year-old All Stars won the Charleston, South Carolina city championship; the South Carolina state championship in Greenville; and the southern regional championship in Rome, Georgia. They traveled to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. as guests of Little League’s national office, but they were not permitted to play for the national title because they had won each of the earlier championships by forfeits. At the local, state and regional levels, all 70 other teams refused to play the All Stars for one reason – the other teams were all-white and 11-12-year-old All Stars were all-black. White parents and southern newspapers expressly linked interracial youth baseball competition to Brown’s recent order to integrate elementary and secondary school classrooms.
In the early summer of 1955, the Charleston Post and Courier publicly condemned the All Stars and their parents for trying “to force the colored team into the league,” where they “weren’t wanted.” When the city of Charleston honored the All Stars in 2'008 however, the paper praised them as “classy, forgiving men” whose sterling example taught a “lesson of courage and inspiration.” When Little League invited the All Stars back to Williamsport to throw out the first pitch at the World Series in 2002 and 2005, fans representing teams from around the world responded with sustained standing ovations. The Boston Globe calls the Cannon Street All Stars’ story “one of baseball’s cruelest moments,” and ABC News calls it “the civil rights story that got lost in history.” Histories of individual indignities such as those suffered by the All Stars, and accounts of the victims’ lifelong successes and dignified forgiveness, enrich understanding of Brown and its influence on America and the nation’s children.
Keywords: Brown, children, baseball, civil rights, Supreme Court
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