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9 Black Athletes Who Integrated Professional Sports

After Jackie Robinson started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, ending a six-decade ban on Black players in Major League Baseball, opportunities slowly began to expand for athletes of color. Robinson’s historic achievement—a formative moment of the postwar civil rights movement, along with the 1948 desegregation of the U.S. military—led to the gradual integration of other professional sports, such as football, basketball, hockey, tennis, motorsports and golf.

In most of these sports, racial barriers had long denied African American athletes full participation, forcing them to compete in often-segregated leagues that offered less money and visibility than the pros. Both Major League Baseball and the National Football League had so-called gentlemen’s agreements, unwritten rules among owners to not pursue Black players. The PGA Tour had a “Caucasians-only” clause in its bylaws. 

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