Historical Investigation

Research Question: To what extent did the experiences of Charles Follis and Fritz Pollard reflect the over all experience in the early 1900s?

Section A: word count 125
The purpose of this investigation is to examine the extent to which the experiences of Charles Follis and Fritz Pollard, reflect the overall experience of African Americans in the early 1900s. The main body of the investigation will tell the experiences of Follis and Pollard. And then go on to tell the experience of African Americans and their struggles. Two sources utilized in this investigation are a book, Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League by Charles K. Ross, and a New York Times article about Fritz Pollard. A conclusion will then be made regarding the extent to which the experiences of Follis and Pollard overall reflect the experiences of African Americans as a whole in the early 1900s.


Section B: word count 665
African Americans have faced adversity and discrimination in football over the years. It has been hard for them to join colleges and play on the team. Only a little over 50 black players played on white college teams from 1889 through 1920. Seldom were there more than two blacks on one team. And most schools had no blacks at all,” (1). There was then a commercialized football movement and the, “founding of the New York Athletic Club in 1866 marked the single most important step in this movement,” (2).
Charles W. Follis became football’s first black professional when he signed to play for the Shelby Athletic Club on September 15, 1904,” (3). But before he became a professional, “his football career began in 1899, when he helped the Wooster High School officials organize a varsity program. He was the team’s first captain—and right halfback,”(4). Follis became a target for the opposition because he was a great player and black. For example, “in 1903 the Marion team went after Follis in hope of putting him out of the game,”(5). And again in 1905, “the crowd got after him, advising the local players to put him out of the game,”(6).
Another influential black football player was Fritz Pollard. When Pollard started to look for colleges to play football at he thought of Northwesten. He went to a freshman practice in the fall of 1912 (7). However when he went to talk to the dean about registering, “the dean found Pollard’s objective unacceptable and sent him packing,”(8). Pollard ended up attending and playing football at Brown University. However, he was “initially shunned by his white teammates and singled out as a target on the practice field, Pollard summoned every ounce of resolve and applied what he had learned in Chicago about confronting racism, and somehow endured,”(9).
African Americans were having a hard time getting equality from the whites. For example, in 1900, Rayford W. Logan wrote, “After Emancipation, he contended, the hopes of the Negroes were betrayed. Again they were pushed down into second-class status. It appeared that democracy was for whites only,”(10). Also, in 1905, “W.E.B Du Bois founds the Niagara movement, a forerunner to the NAACP. The Niagara movement embraces a more radical approach, calling for immediate equality in all areas of American life,”(11).
African Americans also dealt with segregation, for example, on December 19, 1910, “The City Council of Baltimore approved the first city ordinance designating the boundaries of black and white neighborhoods. This ordinance was followed by similar ones in Dallas, Texas, Greensboro, North Carolina, Louisville, Kentucky, Norfolk, Virginia, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Richmond, Virginia, Roanoke, Virginia, and St. Louis, Missouri,”(12). And again on April 11, 1913, “the Wilson administration began government-wide segregation of work places, rest rooms and lunch rooms,”(13).
Furthermore, African Americans had to deal with angry whites and riots. They had to deal with the Ku Klux Klan which went around and lynched and protested against the blacks. And that only got worse when in 1915, “D.W. Griffith’s racist epic film The Birth of a Nation debuted, and race-hatred would never be the same,”(14). Another showing of angry whites was on the riot in July 17, 1919. “Whites riot against blacks in Washington, DC. The rampage by about 400 whites initially drew only scattered resistance in the black community, and the police were nowhere to be seen. When the Metropolitan Police Department finally arrived in force, its white officers arrested more blacks than whites,”(15). But the most deadly racial riot was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June of 1921. “The exact number of people killed in the riot, which destroyed a 30-square-block area of north Tulsa known as Greenwood, a primarily black neighborhood, was never determined. Newspaper accounts at the time varied, with some reporting as many as 76 dead. But some historians, citing survivors' accounts, have put the figure as high as 300. Blacks here have long maintained that whites used airplanes to bomb homes, churches and businesses in north Tulsa,”(16).



Section C: word count 242
New York Times (1857-1922); Dec 1, 1916; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851- 2006) pg. 8

Brown Is Crushed By Colegate’s Might is an article written in 1916 for the New York Times. This article was written during the time that blacks were just becoming a part of the sport of football. More specifically, when Fritz Pollard was playing for Brown Univerisity. In the article, it talks about how Colegate defeated Brown easily, but Pollard still played a good game. The value of this source is that it shows how black players such as Pollard, can have a good game even while facing adversity. However, the limitation is that it does not specifically tell about any of the struggles that Pollard faced off the field.

Section C:
Outside The Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League is a book written by Charles K. Ross in 1999. This book is about African Americans and their journey to integration in the National Football League. Ross set up the book in chronological order and all of them contribute in describing how African Americans became integrated. Two of them in particular talk about the original struggles that the African Americans went through. The value of this source is that when it describes the integration, it includes specific players and their stories and struggles. However, the limitation of this source is that it is a secondary source. The author, Charles K. Ross, was not a black football player dealing with the struggles of trying to play in the national football league.

Section D: word count 616

The experiences of African American football players, Charles Follis and Fritz Pollard, are a good overall reflection of the experience of African Americans as a whole in the early 1900s. Looking at this connection allows us to see if society treats African Americans differently if they are star athletes.
Charles Follis’ experience as an African American athlete was a struggle. He was put into more danger than the white players while playing football. While playing, Follis would be sought after to injure during games by the opponent’s players and fans because he was black. Even though he had struggles, he also had some successes. The biggest one was when he became football’s first black professional player when he signed to play for the Shelby Athletic Club on September 15, 1904.
Fritz Pollard, the other African American athlete being compared to the other African Americans, also dealt with some struggles. He really struggled with finding a college that would accept him. He wanted to go to a place where he would be able to play football. His favorite school was Northwestern, so he went to a freshman practice. However, when he went to talk to the dean about registering, the dean did not allow him to play and told him to go play at Evanston school. After playing at Evanston for a little, Pollard tried to register at Brown but failed to do so by 1914. So he then went to Dartmouth, but once again the dean refused to let him register. He finally was able to register at Bates but he had to sit out of that football season due to frequent change of schools. After the winter, Pollard dropped out and was able to register at Brown again. This time he was accepted and was able to play football. However, during practice the white players targeted him, like Follis was during games. Pollard was able to overcome struggles and have success. He was able to make it as a professional football player and eventually was placed in the NFL Hall of Fame.
African Americans that weren’t star athletes also face some struggles like Follis and Pollard. African Americans were targeted and attacked by whites in early 1900s, just like Follis and Pollard were on the football field. Only the others were attacked on the streets. There were multiple riots in which whites started because they were angry with the African Americans. During the riots, the whites would beat up and kill many African Americans. Such riots consisted of one in July 17, 1919 in Washington D.C. and one in June of 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And not only did just everyday whites on the street attack them, but groups such as the Ku Klux Klan terrorized them as well. Another struggle that African Americans had to face in society was segregation of workplaces, restrooms, and lunchrooms. Due to segregation, African Americans did not receive the same quality of schooling. This made it nearly impossible to find a college to attend, just like Fritz Pollard’s experience. African Americans also struggled with equality. The rights that they had were not the same as whites. For example, white men were allowed to vote, while no African American man could vote. Another right that wasn’t equal was the right to a fair trial. Whites would get that fair trial, while African Americans would be lucky to get a trial, and if they did, it was not going to be a fair one.
Like Charles Follis and Fritz Pollard, African Americans were able to conquer the struggles and have some successes. For example, W.E.B Du Bois founded the Niagara movement, which called for immediate equality in all areas in American life.


Section E: word count 100
Charles Follis and Fritz Pollard’s experiences were similar to that of African Americans as a whole. Pollard struggled with finding a college to get into, like the African Americans struggled with finding a college that would accept them with the education they have. Follis and Pollard also struggled with being targets for the white players. This was the same with African Americans in society. They would be targeted and killed in riots and by the Ku Klux Klan. Due to these experiences, it can be concluded that society did not treat African Americans different even if they were star athletes.

Section F:
Becker, Eddie. “Chronology on the History of Slavery and Racism 1830 – the End.” Inner City. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. <http://innercity.org/‌holt/‌chron_1830_end.html>.

New York Times (1857-1922); Dec 1, 1916; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851- 2006) pg. 8

Ross, Charles K. Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League. New York: New York UP, 1999. Print.

Total Word Count: 1,748


End Notes
1. Ross, Charles K. Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League. New York: New York UP, 1999. Print.
2. ibid
3. ibid
4. ibid
5. ibid
6. ibid
7. Ross, Charles K., and Scott Brooks. Race and Sport: The Struggle for Equality on and off the Field. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2004. Print.
8. ibid
9. ibid
10. Becker, Eddie. “Chronology on the History of Slavery and Racism 1830 – the End.” Inner City. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. <http://innercity.org/‌holt/‌chron_1830_end.html>.
11. “African-American History Timeline.” Infoplease. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. <http://www.infoplease.com/‌spot/‌bhmtimeline.html>.
12. Becker, Eddie. “Chronology on the History of Slavery and Racism 1830 – the End.” Inner City. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. <http://innercity.org/‌holt/‌chron_1830_end.html>.
13. ibid
14. ibid
15. ibid
16. ibid