By Velma J. Korbel, Director — Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights
Thursday, March 21 is observed as the International Day for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. It is observed annually on March 21 in recognition of the “Sharpeville Massacre”. At a demonstration which began peacefully, but turned violent on March 21, 1960 in Sharpeville, South Africa, police opened fire killing 69 people and wounding 178 others. Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly of the United Nations called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
This year’s theme, “Racism and Sport,” was chosen by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to highlight the problem of racism in sports, which remains a disturbing occurrence in many parts of the world, as well as to raise awareness of the role sports can play in combating racism and racial discrimination. In created the theme, the High Commissioner was influenced by provisions from the International Olympic Charter which encourages us “to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
In recognition of International Day for The Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, the following is a re-post of material original presented via the social media sites of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department in February 2012 in observance of Black History Month. The re-post highlights the accomplishments of three Minnesotans whose sportsmanship and life embody the principles of this year’s theme.
In the early days of the black community in Minnesota, many participated in a variety of sports. Many teams and events were sponsored by the settlement houses. Social clubs and religious organizations also provided opportunities for participation. One notable athlete of this period was Marcenia Toni Stone. In high school, she won letters in track, tennis, and diamond ball. She later became the first woman to play professional baseball in the all-male Negro American League.
One of the best all-around sports figures Minnesota ever saw was Bobby Marshall. He made his career in baseball and football, but he also played several other sports, including boxing, track, and basketball.
Born Robert Marshall in 1880, he grew up in Minneapolis. At Central High School, he excelled in both baseball and football, leading his school to a championship season in football in 1900.His prowess drew the attention of the University of Minnesota, which allowed him to play reserve and then varsity in his first year with the football team. In his first two years, the team won the Big Ten Championship.
Bobby got a degree in law from the University in 1907, and over the next 30 years played semi-professional baseball and worked in football. He often took his message of “good sportsmanship and clean living” to community centers and churches where he talked to young people. He died in 1958. Few noticed his passing, but in 1991, the University of Minnesota named him to the Hall of Fame.
Alan Page played football for the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears from 1967-1981 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He prefers to be known as a lawyer and educator and has used the fame gained from football to promote his favorite cause, education. In 1988, Mr. Page created a scholarship fund for black college students. In 1992 he became the first African American to be appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. He continues to serve today.
Taylor, David Vassar. African Americans in Minnesota: The People of Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002.
“International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination”. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CERD.aspx