Hit a home run with your students using sports to discuss historical issues! With baseball season underway and the movie 42 in theaters, it's a great time to use the sports to discuss civil rights. The story begins before Jackie Robinson was born though.
In the years after the Civil War, many people worked tirelessly to break down racial barriers and ensure that blacks received the social and political rights they deserved. In many places, including Philadelphia, baseball provided a platform on which to do this. Through their talent, intelligence, diligence, and drive both on and off the field, men like Octavius Catto and the players in Pythian's Base Ball Club worked to build strong ties as well as local and national support systems for the black community of Philadelphia.
For more information on this Club and teaching resources, see our unit plan "Baseball and Race in Post-bellum Pennsylvania." This lesson plan also is associated with the Pennsylvania Legacies issue Baseball in Pennsylvania, that expands the story to women and Native Americans.
Speaking of women, another Philadelphian Edith Houghton was the first female scout in professional baseball. Read her fascinating story in PhilaPlace. Have students research other trail-blazers in baseball and compare their stories to learn about conflict and resolution in American society.