For every person familiar with baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, there are others who don’t know about Emlen Tunnell, the first Black Pro Football Hall of Famer, or Ann Gregory, the first Black woman to enter a United States Golf Association-sponsored event.
Inspired by the endeavors of these less-celebrated competitors, The Undefeated presents a visual timeline of the 20 years major pro teams and many individual sports were desegregated. We identify the Black and Afro-Latino players who integrated all-white professional teams starting in 1942, five years before Robinson’s Major League debut, through 1962, the year he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The dates stated were when players debuted in a game. American Football League, which launched in 1960, and expansion teams from that era in other sports, all of which began with players of color, are not included. Notable moments in Black history are also featured.
More than 40 athletes are included in this timeline, and their stories deserve to be told.
Sonny Boswell, Bernie Price, Hillery Brown, Duke Cumberland, Tony Peyton and Roosie Hudson
The Chicago Studebaker Flyers, then of the National Basketball League, integrate American professional team sports with six Black players — Sonny Boswell, Bernie Price, Hillery Brown, Duke Cumberland, Tony Peyton and Roosie Hudson — who were all former Harlem Globetrotters.
Sugar Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Robinson, right, defeats California Jackie Wilson at Madison Square Garden — the first of 91 consecutive unbeaten fights that continued until 1951.
Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe and Marvin Williams
“I tattooed the wall that day,” Jackie Robinson recalled of the futile tryout he and fellow Negro league stars Sam Jethroe and Marvin Williams, pictured, have with the Red Sox, “but I knew we’d never hear from them and we never did.”