February is Black History Month. Over the next several weeks, we would like to provide you with bits of information about the events and lives of African Americans in Minnesota with an emphasis on African Americans in the Twin Cities. We will not be able to cover every event or highlight every person as it is impossible to do justice to the tremendous impact of one people on a community. We hope to provide you with enough to whet your appetite to learn more about the history and the cultures that have helped create the rich, vibrant community that we are all a part of.
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 who promised to help black grade school youngsters. In 1992 he became the first African American to be appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. He continues to serve today.
Source: Taylor, David Vassar. African Americans in Minnesota: The People of Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002. Print.