LCSC Public Lecture on Chatham Coloured All-Stars
On Sept. 20, the Laurier Centre for the Study of Canada hosted a public lecture on the Chatham Coloured All-Stars.
As part of the LCSC’s speaker series, Associate Professor of History at University of Windsor, Miriam Wright, spoke on themes of social justice in relation to her research of the Chatham Coloured All-Stars baseball team.
The Chatham Coloured All-Stars were an African-Canadian baseball team playing out of Chatham Ontario during the 1930s.
The team joined white-dominated leagues and became one of the first Black teams to win a provincial title.
“I was department head at the time, it was about 2015, and we decided that as a department we wanted to recognize and support community-based history, so we created an award … and we happened to give an award to another group in Chatham, a group that was doing a digital project on local involvement in World War I and World War II. … A woman who was there came up to me and said that her late father-in-law had been a member of this black team from the 1930s, the Chatham Coloured All-Stars, a team that was one of the first Black teams to win a provincial championship,” said Wright, regarding her involvement with the research project.
“She said that they had a family scrapbook, sort of documenting the history of this team and her late father-in-law’s life in sports. And she said, well, could we help make some kind of a website? And so I said yes. I had a bit of experience doing public history, although not digital history. I connected with colleagues over at the university’s library, the Eddy Library, specifically with Dr. Heidi Jacobs and Dave Johnson, who had been collaborating with us in other ways in the history department, working with history courses and so on. And we decided to work on this project.”
The research team for the Chatham Coloured All-Stars project launched a website containing their findings in 2017.
In August of this year, Wright came out with her book Sporting Justice: The Chatham Coloured All-Stars and Black Baseball in Southwestern Ontario, 1915-1958.
“We weren’t specifically looking to start a project, but the opportunity arose. And we thought, well, we’re in a position to help amplify this story, which really hadn’t had much attention outside of Chatham. People in Chatham knew about it, but mostly not outside. And so, here’s a chance to let a wider range of people know about it,” Wright added.
The website contains an overview of the teams championship season as well as many newspaper archives from the time and an extensive collection of interviews.
“It was important to us to include the audio file as well as the transcripts. We have transcripts, but it’s also important to hear people’s voices. To hear tones of voice, hear them laughing at certain points to get a fuller sense of the meaning of the story, because I think that’s really a big part of it. You can’t always convey it with a bunch of newspaper articles the meaning that the story had had over many generations,” said Wright.
Wright’s lecture was hosted virtually and online.
“…. the Laurier Centre for the Study of Canada before was actually a military history research centre, and three years ago we evolved into what we are now. And during that process we expanded our kind of mandate into four areas…,” said Eric Story, Outreach Manager at LCSC.
Story explained that LCSC’s speaker series tries to align within four research collectives, War and Society, Publics and Social Justice, Policy Connections and Communities.
“…. when I saw Miriam’s book advertised at Congress at York University this summer at WLU Press’s booth, I just thought it was a perfect fit for the Communities collective, but it also fit well into our Publics and Social Justice collective, so it kind of hit two of our main collectives. That was why I chose it,” added Story.
For more information on LCSC’s speaker series, visit the organization’s website.
To learn more about the Chatham Coloured All-Stars’ history, visit the project’s website.
“I just encourage people to look at it. There’s so much there. It’s quite a rich sort of collection. If anyone is doing a project, an essay or something on Canadian Black history, I encourage you to take a look. There’s all kinds of interesting things there. And I think it has a lot to say to us in the present, even though it’s something that happened many decades ago,” said Wright.