Got a story to tell? Let us know!

BLAKFACTS BANNER

We’re hard at work documenting Akron’s Black history. Black history is being made and documented every day. Our job is to find it and put it into a format that makes it accessible, memorable and useful to students from 8-80.

Our publications a number of interactive books for children, college level books for secondary and collegiate study, trading cards for all ages and all kinds of video recordings, from instructional videos to interviews, performances and speeches.

The curriculum of the future is here. Blakfacts Educational Research, Inc. (BER) set out to create a comprehensive curriculum tailor made for students in NE Ohio, particularly Akron, OH. Our multicultural curriculum is innovative, interactive and interesting to students of all ages. This unique curriculum is beyond the planning stage, but remains incomplete. There’s still much more to be done. We’ve been able to lay the groundwork and have created a model upon which to build. Now what we need is your input and support.

Although our curriculum was created with residents of Akron in mind, it’s not limited to Akron alone. Our primary multi-volume series, Ohio’s Black Athletes, includes athletes from all over NE Ohio, as well as athletes from central and southern Ohio, in order to represent as many sports as possible.

We’re currently in the processing of expanding our focus to include many more women. For the most part women have been locked out of professional sports, which has made it very difficult to find female athletes to feature in our publications. So far, we have been able to find one professional, female fastpitch softball player, race car driver, hockey player, golfer, baton twirler and world class track star. Recently, we stumbled upon some female WNBA stars, gymnasts and tennis players, but it’s been a real slog, because of the lack of information that has been compiled. If you know of someone who should be featured in our publications, please let us know. In the end you are our most valuable resource.

 

Fundraising for Ohio’s Black Athletes: Multimedia Production

Blakfacts Educational Research, Inc., a 501 c3 corporation, will begin its 1st fundraising campaign on GoFundMe.com beginning on November 1st, 2017 through November 31st, 2017. Our goal is to raise $35,000 in order to take Ohio’s Black Athletes, our 1st multimedia production to the next level, which will include videotaping interviews of featured individuals, the creation of slideshows for those who cannot be interviewed, and the production and distribution of thousands of books to be distributed at no cost to children all over the state of Ohio.

This project began 10 years ago with a request from a local elementary school principal to create some original, culturally relevant materials for his school. Stewart Africentric was the only public school in Akron, Ohio with an African centered curriculum. At the time of the original request they had been in operation for about 7 years.

The idea was to create books for their annual Black Academic Challenge contest, which was held for about 4 years, during Black History Month, with schools from all over the district and even some outside of the district. We originally envisioned creating books on local African American religious leaders, athletes, business people, politicians and entertainers. I decided to start with athletes, because my initial research indicated there weren’t very many of them, so I could complete it in a couple of months and move on. This turned out to be very inaccurate.

After researching African American athletes from Akron and beyond I’ve learned a few things. Number one, there are a lot more notable athletes from Akron/NE Ohio than I could have imagined. Number two, an athletic career is typically not a lifelong avocation, therefore many politicians, religious leaders, business people, etc. are very likely to have played sports in their younger days. In documenting this one aspect of African American life I’ve been able to document much of the history of African Americans in the area.

My primary resources were Dr. Shirla McClain, the Akron Beacon Journal working library, as well as the libraries of Kent State, Summit County, Stow Munroe Falls and Case Western Reserve Historic Society Archives. Most people don’t usually credit Amazon.com as a resource, but they have been an invaluable resource in tracking down books that could not be found in local libraries or archival collections.

The project has been expanded, over the years, from focusing on elementary school books, to include a college edition. Our newest addition, is a series of collectible trading cards, featuring 15 athletes who made a name for themselves playing sports in Ohio; as well as Dr. Shirla McClain, who documented The Contributions of Blacks in Akron, 1825-1975. Featured athletes will include the likes of Paul Robeson, Moses Fleetwood Walker, LeBron James, Nate Thurmond, Rev. Ronald Fowler, William Suddeth, Gus Johnson, Renee Powell and Billy Ray Thunder.

Our goal is to inspire the youth to excel in sports, as they learn how to turn athletic success into success in life. Many of the youth of today are focused like a laser beam on athletics, while academic excellence is looked upon as something foreign. This project seeks to set the record straight by showing the connection between the two.

This project has been self-funded up to this point. Now we’re asking the public to chip in with charitable donations.

 

Moses Fleetwood Walker finally has his day

MOSES FLEETWOOD WALKER CARD 2017

Akron City Councilman, Russ Neal recently proposed the creation of a new holiday, which would replace the Oct. 12 holiday honoring Christopher Columbus, with a day honoring America’s Indigenous People. I’d venture to say, most Americans look at Christopher Columbus as a hero, because of his courageous search for a new route to India. However, many people have a very different view of him, because of the cruelties he personally inflicted on the native people’s of America. Suffice it to say, this resolution is as of yet, unresolved. The Italian community came out in force to support their hero.

Meanwhile, House Bill 59, which was sponsored by Ohio State Reps. David Leland (D., Toledo) and Thomas West (D., Canton) was recently signed into law, making October 7th Moses Fleetwood Walker Day.  It was the third attempt to get the bill passed by the Ohio legislature and old Fleet did not disappoint. Just one more home run for Fleet Walker.

If you ask the average man on the street who were the earliest African Americans to play major league baseball, the answer will typically be Jackie Robinson. What is virtually never mentioned is why there was a colorline in the first place.

Racism is a belief system that defies logic and requires the suspension of reality, in order to exist. Fleetwood Walker, his brother Welday Walker and other early African American ball players came with the real, every day. They exhibited their prowess on the ballfield, right alongside White ballplayers. If they had been inferior players, there would have been no reason to have a colorline, in the first place. It would have been a moot question. First and foremost, who would want to pay them top dollar to compete against some of the 19th century’s best players, like Cap Anson, who outright refused to play with Fleetwood on the field?

Not only could these men play ball with the best of them, they were also exemplary men, in a rough and tumble sport that was replete with hooliganism. Both Fleetwood and his brother graduated from an integrated high school in Steubenville, Ohio during the late 1870’s. They also attended Oberlin College and the University of Michigan together, with the elder Fleetwood leading the way.

At the time baseball was becoming America’s foremost pastime, Fleetwood was a superior hitter and catcher. Without the benefit of a proper glove or protective equipment, like our modern-day players, Fleetwood sustained many injuries. Racism came into play here, as well, because one pitcher, in particular, objected to a Black man signaling him what pitch to throw. In spite of everything, Fleetwood was a valued member of every club he joined.

He played pro ball, exclusively on integrated teams, from 1883 to 1889, beginning with the Toledo Blue Stockings and ending with The Syracuse Stars. By the time he was released from the Stars, segregated leagues had already sprung up. He had no interest in playing Negro League ball. Over the years he invested much of his money to a number of entrepreneurial ventures. Once his playing days were behind him he decided to pursue these other interests full time.

His brother ended up joining him in some of his new enterprises, which included the promotion of a plan to leave the United States, in search of a better life on the African continent. Moses had come full circle, joining the likes of Bishop Henry McNeil Turner and other prominent African Americans in seeking a solution to America’s “race problem” in faraway Africa.

As far as I know, neither of them ever made it to the Motherland. Fleetwood took his final breath on May 11th, 1924. His was a life well lived, with many accomplishments to his name, including the patenting of 4 of his ideas, proprietorship of a number of ventures, including an Opera House and a newspaper. He died the same way he lived, with dignity and style, unmatched by many of his fiercest opponents. Let us remember the life of Moses Fleetwood Walker, for he deserves more than one minute of recognition. He deserves a day of his own.