I had a good interview with Wadie Moore, the assistant executive director for Arkansas’s organizing body for high school athletics, about the enduring issue of incomplete records. Here’s the resulting article:
When Wadie Moore started compiling a record book for the Arkansas Activities Association around 1996, he wanted it to be as comprehensive as possible.
The assistant executive director for Arkansas’s organizing body for high school athletics combed through archives and drew on the contacts he’d made in his decades of sportswriting for the Arkansas Gazette.
All the while, though, Moore knew the record book he was creating told an incomplete story of his state’s athletic past. He knew there had been two high school sports associations divided by race until 1967, when the all-white Arkansas Activities Association integrated with the all-black Arkansas State Athletic Association.
When compiling the book, which includes a list of state champions in various sports and all-time leaders in statistical categories, Moore used official records kept by the AAA dating back to the early 1900s. But he didn’t find any records kept by the ASAA. The paperwork, if it existed, apparently wasn’t transferred to the AAA headquarters. So, Moore didn’t include marks set by all-black powerhouse programs in basketball, football and track like Pine Bluff Merrill, Little Rock Dunbar, Horace Mann, Scipio Jones, Hot Springs Langston and Texarkana Washington high schools.
The result affects not only the AAA record book, but all the news reports that use it as a source.
Read the rest of the Arkansas Times piece here.
In researching this topic, I’ve discovered every Southern state has made different degrees of progress in exhibiting the history of its pre-integration, all-black athletic association.
West Virginia appears to have made the most headway of all non-Northern states with a deeply segregated racial past. The border state appears to have the oldest all-black association – dating back to at least 1925 – and today has an active All-Black Schools Sports & Academic Hall of Fame that holds ceremonies to celebrate an aspect of that state’s heritage that likely would otherwise remain vastly under-reported.
In Florida, an historian has taken it upon himself to research that state’s all-black association. The result was a book called The History of the Florida Interscholastic Athletic Association 1932-68.
Alexander and co-authors Leedell W. Neyland and Matthew Estaras spent three years working on the book, which includes listings of a number of state championship teams in baseball, basketball and track and field.
It was not an easy endeavor for the authors, who noted in the preface “that due to lack of adequate records and documents, it is impossible to present a thoroughly comprehensive and definitive history of the association. However, having first-hand knowledge that many records of the FIAA were irretrievably destroyed, that others were being held by officers for various reasons, and that records from now abolished black schools were not readily accessible, the writers decided to use the materials and resources at hand.”
“I was shocked really that we had such little information on the organization,” said Neyland, 79, a longtime dean of arts and sciences at Florida A&M and author of seven books. “People knew so little about it. They did not have records of state championships, and in many cases the individual schools did not have records.”
By using official letters, programs, newspaper clippings and FIAA minutes maintained by Alexander and Estaras, both prominent members of the association, the trio compiled records that Neyland is “convinced are accurate.”
“As a historian, I hated to write it like this, with so many gaps,” Neyland said. “But I think you’ve got to be realistic. You have to admit from the beginning, which is what I did, that there will incredible gaps you cannot fill.” – St Petersburg Times
Amazingly, as of 2002, Florida’s organizing body for high school athletics had not received a copy of this book. I haven’t been able to confirm whether the state’s official book has included records from it yet.
It appears progress is being made in other states.
The Mississippi High School Activities Association, according to the above article, integrated the championship results of black schools in the 1980s. In 1986, 15 years after a court order forced the association to merge with the all-black Magnolia State High School Activities Association, its board members agreed to include the achievements of the black schools. You can see its record book here.
It appears that in the last decade Georgia has followed suit. Here’s a list of champions from the all-black Georgia Interscholastic Association, which held state championship competitions from 1948-70. There is also a heritage Web site, where people can submit more info or records.
Texas, of course, has multiple Web sites devoted to myriad aspects of its insanely active prep sports scene. One of them is dedicated to history of the all-black Prairie View Interscholastic League:
During the latter half of 1920, the University Interscholastic League (UIL), the governing body for the White high schools in Texas, decided to
establish a separate Negro division. It was named the Texas Interscholastic League of Colored Schools (TILCS) and held that name until
1964 when it was officially changed to the Prairie View Interscholastic League. However, from the beginning, in the Black community, it was
called the “Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL) or the “Negro League,” because the state track meet was held at Prairie View each
spring and all of the documentation on the academic and athletic competitions was housed there.The first state track and field meet was held
at Prairie View Normal College in April 1921.
It should be noted that the all-black schools in Arkansas, like Texas, depended on the facilities of one of the state’s largest all-black colleges. The Arkansas State Athletic Association held its annual state basketball championships at what is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
As far as I could tell, there had not yet been integration of records in Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama or South Carolina.
Still, I think Arkansas would do well to follow in the footsteps of Texas, Georgia and Florida. A book, heritage Web site, and a list of records that could be incorporated into AAA record book. All these could be spun off the same research.
It just takes time.