Meet the two Blacks who played professional baseball in 1800s before the sport was desegregated 

John Fowler and Moses Fleetwood Walker, first African American baseball players/Photo credit: Bleacher report and The YNLBP Travelling Exhibit

In the 1800s, African-American baseball players were battling to make it into the major leagues because there was a ban on their participation. The segregation of the game confined African Americans who wished to play baseball to the Negro Leagues. This moratorium on the major leagues for Black players lasted for 50 years.

Even when economic reasons forced sponsors and regulators of the sport to integrate Black players, the process was slow, according to history. By the 1940s, the baseball community began witnessing some degree of integration.

John Fowler

Fowler was the first African-American professional baseball player. He played with a team in New Castle, Pennsylvania. He was the first African American among many to come who played in white leagues before 1900. The white-dominated media described him as one of the best second basemen of his time but because of racial segregation, he never had the opportunity to play in the Major leagues.

Fowler was later nicknamed “Bud” because he had a penchant for calling his teammates and other players “Bud”. He played with white baseball clubs until the wind of integration began changing the dynamics of the game in 1900. He was the only player to have played for an all-white team until 1895.

In 1895, Fowler and other players held a Page Fence Giants in Adrian, Michigan, following their concerns about racial prejudice. Fowler struggled in getting a team that will engage him because of the color of his skin after playing at New Castle, Pennsylvania. He passed away on February 26, 1913.

Moses Fleetwood Walker

Moses Fleetwood Walker broke the glass ceiling when he became the first African American to play in the Major League. He played for Oberlin College for two years, according to He also did two years with Michigan at Ann Arbor. He then moved to the Toledo club of the North Western League where he began his professional major league journey.

He attained national prominence for his sterling performance. Walker did not wear gloves when he played in the major league and this resulted in the major injuries he sustained that ended his career in years to come.

He had his own share of racism when he played Toledo Blue Stockings; one of the famous players at the time, Cap Anson, would not share the opposite field with him in the starting lineup. They eventually played but this marked the start of Walker’s major challenges, including the erection of a “color barrier” in the game. At the beginning of the 1884 season, professional baseball league, the American Association (which would later become the modern-day American League) was established and it added the Toledo Blue Stockings to its list of participating franchises, moving Toledo from the minor to the major league level.

This implied that on the opening day of the 1884 season, the starting catcher of the Toledo Blue Stockings would become the first African-American player to play a professional baseball game. On May 1, 1884, Walker took the field against the Louisville Eclipse, and with that, he officially broke the color barrier of Major League Baseball.

Last Edited by:Sandra Appiah Updated: December 14, 2022


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