Black Pioneers in Sports History

Image from

Reese Kent, Staff Writer

African-Americans account for many records and historic moments in American sport history, even with the restrictions of Jim Crow Laws and racist league policies in early sports history. The players below overcame some of the hardest color barriers and restrictions at the time and still prevailed. Many of the players listed are still record-holders today. 


Jackie Robinson is an MLB legend and a household name today due to the records he still holds. Beginning his career in 1947, Jackie Robinson quickly became one of the best players in the league, winning rookie of the year in his debut year. Not only was Jackie Robinson an MLB legend, he also was an Army veteran that served during World War 2 and then went on to break the color barrier in the MLB. Jackie Robinson was also a large advocate for the Civil Rights movement at the time and displayed a lot of inspiration for young African-Americans, winning the 1955 World-Series title with the Dodgers. 


Bill Russel is an undisputed legendary NBA coach and player that currently holds the record for the most NBA Championship wins at 11 in 13 seasons. The only person to come close to his undisputed record was Sam Jones with 10 championships. Starting his career in 1956, he went on to win a gold medal for basketball in the Olympics. Not only does he hold the record for championships, he also played during the height of the civil rights movement from 1956 to 1969. Bill Russel went down in history as the first African-American coach to win an NBA championship. 


Charlie Sifford is an African-American PGA legend that began his career in PGA in 1961. Charlie Sifford would’ve begun his PGA career in 1952, but received many death threats from spectators and other players. Since this incident was a pre-civil rights movement, an African-American entering the PGA was unheard of at the time, and not taken lightly. By the end of his career, Charlie Sifford went on to win 22 tournaments, and compete in 422 total.

These players achieved many things that most players can only dream of, even with the existing color barriers and the controversial Civil Rights movements occurring during their careers. All of these players displayed hope to the youth pushing for equal rights within the USA.