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Lynn Moulton

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The Boys of '62: transcending the racial divide (Limited Second Edition)

The Boys of '62: transcending the racial divide (Limited Second Edition)

Vaughan Furriers Maritime Junior Baseball Champions
by Frank Mitchell, General Editor
consultant editor Lynn Moulton
associate editor Virginia Houston
designed by francis Mitchell
tagged : sports
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The period from the early fifties to the mid-sixties was the time frame for the first edition of this book, which coincided with the period of civil rights protests in the USA and similar, but perhaps less confrontational changes in Canada. It follows the team until late in 2007. [The Limited Second Edition updates the exploits of this team and its members to 2009.] The early 60s was the time of Rosa Parks and the bus company of Montgomery, Alabama; the march, confrontation and bloodshed at Selma; the confrontation between Gov. George Wallace and John F. Kennedy, where the president used federal legislation and the National Guard to permit blacks to enroll in white universities; as well as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march on Washington and his famous “I have a dream! “speech.

Much of the impetus for desegregation and hence integration was based on the Brown vs the Board of Education (1954) argued by Thurgood Marshall, where the unanimous landmark decision by the Justice Earl Warren-led U.S. Supreme Court, ruled that separate education was inherently unequal treatment and inferior education under the equal treatment clause of the 14th Amendment. This was also time of the official separation of races in many southern states. However the ruling on Brown opened the way for the integration and civil rights movements. It did not, however, remove violence as the Klu Klux Klan was still operating, and there were the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King and the crippling of Gov. George Wallace.

In Nova Scotia there were segregated seating areas in many theatres, no service in certain restaurants, while some barber shops would not cut the hair of blacks. Other discrimination in housing, education and employment was more subtle, but no less damaging to the aspirations of the African-Canadian population, or as they were then known as, the coloureds. It was also a cyclical and perpetuating discrimination where blacks were denied employment based on their training or education, but then received a poorer quality education or lowered expectations within school systems. One landmark case in Canada, albeit a few years earlier (1948) than the U. S. decision but rather closer to home, involved Viola Desmond1 who was refused a ticket for a ‘whites only’ section in a New Glasgow, N.S. theatre. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia rulesd against her on a technicality, but it would subsequently bring about landmark changes in this country for equal access for blacks to public facilities and services. In 2012 the government of Nova Scotia officially pardoned and apologized to Ms Desmond in a special ceremony.

But as a reader you might ask: ”What has this to do with sport, baseball or this book?” Well the short answer is that segregation in sport existed as well, although the barriers eventually broke down faster in sport than in the society as whole - and the Vaughan Furriers were an important part of those changes. Black players were not permitted on white teams, so consequently the Coloured League (hockey) was formed in Nova Scotia, producing some great teams and many exceptional players. In fact the Coloured League existed nine years before Lord Stanley put his famous cup up for competition in 1893 - for whites only - whereas the Coloured League in Nova Scotia had begun in 1885. The same was true for professional baseball with the existence of the Negro Leagues south of the border. In Nova Scotia the Black Leagues or individual all-black teams in both sports continued right up to the mid-to later fifties, with several of the Furrier’s 1962 team members being connected with such teams earlier in their own lives; a few of the Furriers players even played or had close relatives on these famous early teams.

Quality black players in both baseball and hockey such as New Brunswick’s Willie O’Ree (who eventually broke the NHL’s colour bar with the Boston Bruins) and Manny MacIntyre, who along with Herb and Ossie Carnegie played on a single line with the Quebec Aces during Jean Belliveau’s time. They were dubbed the ‘Black Aces’2 and although they were great players, discrimination held them back, limited their possibilities in professional sports. Many readers are cetainly well aware of O’Ree’s and MacIntyre’s abilities in hockey, few likely knew they were very good in baseball as well.3 But major league baseball’s training camps were all in the deep south, as were some of their ballparks. The mid-fifties was still a time of official segregation in the south, so hockey wound up as the sport of choice for them as the north (including Canada) was somewhat less discriminatory than the southern U.S.A.

In Halifax, in the late fifties-early sixties, opportunities for blacks in employment, access to higher education, as well as many walks of life were limited, but the players on the Rangers-Vaughan Furriers were perhaps unaware of it. They had grown up with blacks and whites in the same neighbourhoods who played together, attended school together, spent time in each other’s homes. So when the Vaughan Furriers went to recruit additional players to build a championship team, they asked other white players to join them. It seemed natural to them, but in doing so they transcended the social and racial divide, performing a kind of reverse integration 4 that at the time seemed impossible in many segments of the larger society. As Jason Bruce wrote in 2007: “Although they wouldn’t realize it for decades, the Vaughan Furriers were trailblazers in 1962.” 5

1, 3. Northern Sandlots, A Social History of Maritime Baseball by Colin D. Howell. Ph.D. © 1995, University of Toronto Press, pp. 182-3 2. www.blackhistorysociety.ca/Black Aces Hockey 4. Colour Blind, CTV news documentary (March,2007) www.youtube.com 5. Jason Bruce: See the initial paragraph on the back cover jacket of this book.

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