Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

The Negro Leagues

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Octavius V. Catto

Perhaps appropriately, the worlds of baseball and civil rights in the United States have long been intertwined, and perhaps no historical figure so embodies that marriage as does Octavius V. Catto (1839—1871), an outspoken and learned advocate for African American rights and starting shortstop for the Camden, New Jersey, Pythian Baseball Club, which he also founded. For Catto, the desegregation of baseball was an important step along the path toward equal justice and treatment for all Americans. In 1867, however, the National Association of Base Ball Players banned from membership any club with an African American player on its roster. Catto was murdered on election day in 1871, the first year that African Americans were allowed to vote in the United States following the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution a year earlier in 1870. With Catto's death the highly regarded Pythians disbanded.

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