Harvard Athletics - Black History Timeline

Harvard Athletics - Black History Timeline

In celebration of Black History Month, the Ivy League posted the timeline below on its website in 2006. Please click here for the complete Ivy League's Black History Month website.

1859 On October 16, 1859, Harvard University announced the appointment of A. Molineaux Hewlett, an African-American, as its first director of physical education culture.

1892 Harvard's football team featured the first black All-American in the form of William Henry Lewis, who had been an undergraduate at Amherst College. Lewis had initially attended Virginia Normal (now Virginia State), but moved north in 1889. He was voted as Amherst's captain in 1890. Lewis went on to Harvard Law School and continued his football career. He played in the Crimson's 6-0 loss to Yale in 1892, but so impressed Walter Camp that he was named to Camp's All-America squad. The Crimson center rusher was a repeat All-America honoree in 1893. Lewis became assistant district attorney in Boston following graduation.

1897 A member of Harvard's class of 1897, Napoleon Bonaparte Marshall participated on the Crimson track team for four years. His specialty was the quarter-mile. Born to well-to-do parents in Washington, D.C., Marshall attended the prestigious Phillips Andover Preparatory School before enrolling at Harvard. He finished third at the intercollegiate track championships in New York in 1897, running the 440-yard event. His best time for the 440-yard dash was 51.2, which he set as a sophomore in 1895 •••Eugene Gregory was the third African-American to play baseball on a white college team, as a member of Harvard's freshman squad. The pitcher/infielder went on to become an educator in New Jersey.

1902 William Clarence Matthews played shortstop for Harvard's varsity baseball team as a freshman. The Crimson altered its 1903 schedule after several southern schools vowed they would not compete against Harvard if Matthews played. During his three years with the team, Matthews stole 42 bases and batted above .300 in each season, while the Crimson went 54-16-1. William was regarded as one of the greatest players of his time and if he had been white, Williams would have definitely been a major league prospect. He did continue to play with the New York Black Sox in its Burlington, Vt. Summer Baseball League.

1907 Alain Locke became the first African-American Rhodes Scholar, studying at Oxford University in England from 1907 to 1910. He was not a varsity athlete at Harvard.

1912 Theodore Cable was born in Topeka, Kan. but grew up in Indianapolis, Ind. A graduate of the Phillips Andover Academy, Cable did not plan on participating in athletics when he entered his freshman year at Harvard. However, when he heard the track and field coach Pat Quinn's call for freshmen in the weight events, he decided to get involved. Cable became a member of the Crimson squad and performed in the 220-yeard dash, the hammer throw and the broad jump. At the 1912 Harvard-Yale meet, he became the first African-American to win the hammer throw event. Cable went on to become a two-time intercollegiate hammer-throw champion in 1912 and 1913. He also won the broad jump title at 22-10 1/4 ••• Alexander Lewis Jackson, of Englewood, N.J., joined Cable at Harvard as a sprinter on the Crimson track team. Jackson became a powerful businessman, reformer, author, educator and journalist in Chicago, serving diverse roles with the YMCA, the Urban League, the Chicago Defender and the Provident Hospital.

1918 Former Harvard trackster Napoleon Bonaparte Marshall -- serving on the firing line in World War I -- was gassed and sent to the hospital. Returning to the battle he was wounded from shell fire in a night raid south of Metz in an effort to capture a machine-gun position. Marshall's spine was severely damaged and he was forced to wear a steel brace for the remainder of his life. An attorney, Marhsall had a long distinguished career in the nation's capital. After returning from the War, President Warren Harding selected him as a military attache in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

1921 A standout track athlete at his high school in Florida,Edward (Ned) Gourdin attracted national attention as a long jumper. He broke the World mark in 1921 with a jump of 25-foot-3. That same year, Gourdin won the pentathlon of the National Amateur Athletic Union. He won first place in three events: the broad jump, the javelin throw and the 200-meter dash. Following a successful collegiate career, Gourdin competed in the 1924 Olympic Games in France. He captured a silver medal in the running broad jump.

1924 Theodora Roosevelt Boyd played for the Radcliffe womens basketball team, the predecessor of the Harvard Crimson women's team. Athletic records from that time are unavailable, but Boyd played in the Conference of the Seven Sisters, which included Radcliffe, Smith, Wellesely, Bryn Mawr, Mt. Holyoke, Vassar, and Barnard. Following her 1927 graduation, Boyd earned a master's in 1930 and a doctorate in 1943. She went on to become a professor of French at Howard University and later chaired the Department ••• Earl Brown,raised in rural Virginia, worked his way through Harvard as both a janitor and a waiter and made a name for himself as a lefthanded pitcher on the Crimson baseball team. In his senior season of 1924, he won four times, beating Seton Hall, Bates, Middlebury and Amherst. In the Amherst game, he struck out 12 batters and yielded six hits. He eventually took his talents to the Negro Leagues that summer, pitching his first of several seasons for the New York Lincoln Giants, first pitching against the Bacharach Giants. Brown later became an educator, a journalist and a community activist in Harlem.

1935 Harvard graduate Ferdinand Q. Morton was chosen commissioner of the struggling Negro National League, at the time the only black league. The following year he met with National League President Ford Frick and offered a proposal that, if accepted, would have both integrated Organized Baseball and provided a structure for African-American management and ownership, resolving a problem that confounds baseball to the current day. His proposal was to fold the Negro Leagues into the minor league baseball. Teams would still be segregated, but play both African-American and white teams. Full integration would occur at some future time (perhaps after white owners got sick of seeing their teams get trounced by former Negro League teams). Had Morton been successful we might have a much higher rate of African-American ownership and management of teams, as the Negro League teams entering Organized Baseball could have served as a base of ownership and a training ground for managers. Perhaps classic Negro League teams, such as the Kansas City Monarch and Homestead Grays, would still exist. Perhaps Branch Rickey -- and even Jackie Robinson -- might not be household names today. Unfortunately Frick rejected the proposal and an historic opportunity was missed. Morton left after the 1937 season, but his career was far from over as he continued to hold his post with the New York Civil Service Commission, eventually being named its president by Mayor LaGuardia in 1946 at the age of 65.

1941 Lacrosse player Lucien Victor Alexis, Jr., of New Orleans, La., is barred from playing a game at the U.S. Naval Academy because of his ethnicity. Sent home 24 hours prior to his teammates, Alexis' banishment set off a howl of protest back on campus.

1947 Tackle Chester (Chet) Pierce became the first African-American player to play against a white college in the South when Harvard's football team faced the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He received a standing ovation from the UVa crowd when he was removed for a substitute in the fourth quarter. Pierce said the incident "thrilled me beyond description."

1958 Lawrence Ekpebu became the first black soccer player named first-team All-Ivy League and the first black athlete in League history to be voted first-team by the Ivy coaches after the official formation of the League in 1955 ••• Edward (Ned) Gourdin, a 1921 graduate who won silver and gold medals in the long jump at the Olympics in 1924 and 1932, becomes the first African-American to become a member of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Gourdin, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., had graduated from Cambridge Latin Prep before enrolling at Harvard. Although he had originally intended to play baseball at Harvard, after winning the long jump and the 100-year and 200-yard dashes in a dual meet against Princeton, his fate as a trackstar was sealed. In 1921, he became the first person to surpass 25 feet in the long jump.

1963 Chris Ohiri was selected first-team All-Ivy League for the third year in a row. "The statistics of Chris Ohiri's athletic life are irrefutably astounding. In three varsity seasons, despite a constant struggle with injuries, he broke every school and league goal-scoring record and led the Crimson to three consecutive Ivy League titles. He still holds school records for goals in a game (5), points in a game (10), career goals (47), and career points (94). The fact that Ivy League rules allowed athletes only three varsity seasons renders his feats more remarkable. Furthermore, he lettered three times in track and still holds the school record for the triple jump." ("The Angel Lion", Boston Magazine, Nov. 2001) 

1963 Aggrey Awori became the first black Harvard Crimson athlete to earn a significant league-wide honor, becoming the Athlete of the Meet at the Heptagonal Indoor Championship. He did so by becoming the only athlete in League history to win three individual events at a single championship (60 meters, 60 hurdles, long jump). Awori would repeat at the Athlete of the Meet in 1965. He would also run for president of his native Uganda.

1965 In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was an influx of black quarterbacks in the Ivy League, as Penn, Princeton, Harvard and Brown each had a starting black QB while Cornell and Columbia had backups. But before all of them, there was a single trailblazer -- John McCluskey, Jr., at Harvard -- who was the League's first signalcaller of color. At Harvard, quarterbacks are often judged for how they perform in a single game -- The Game -- against Yale. And McCluskey was 4-0 versus the Elis, winning as a member of the freshman team in 1962, the junior varsity in 1963 and the varsity in 1964 and 1965. McCluskey was best known as an option QB who often delivered big blocks. And he made a big splash in his first varsity start, rushing for more than 100 yards against UMass in the 1964 opener -- including an 82-yard run.

1973 Tom Sanders became the League's first African-American head men's basketball coach when he named the head coach at Harvard in 1973. The Crimson posted a 43-57 record under Sanders and consistently finished in the upper half of the League. The following season began with three Ivy black head coaches with Sanders, Ben Bluitt at Cornell and Marcus Jackson at Dartmouth. Of the more than 200 major college programs at the time, fewer than 10 had African-American head coaches.

1979 When he was a student (and varsity wrestler) at Harvard, Ed Bordley often suspected that people were treating him differently because they were prejudiced. But he didn't know if it was because he was black or because he was blind. Born with sight, Bordley lost his vision by the time he was 10 years old. School became tough, but he found salvation with his high school wrestling team. By his junior season, in 1974, he became a Delaware state champion. Once he got to Harvard, the victories didn't come quite as easily, but they did come. And he thought less about being a champion then he did revel in being part of the Crimson team. He received a B.A. in Romance Languages from Harvard in 1979 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1982. In 1986, Bordley went to the Crug Enforcement Agency on a detail to work in the area of drug-use deterrence. After some Freedom of Information Act involvement, though, he became an attorney in the Litigation Unit of the DEA's Freedom of Information Act Section.

1980 Harvard's Darlene Beckford sets a national collegiate indoor record in the mile with her time of 4:32.3 at the Eastern Championships. One of Harvard's greatest all-around runners, she set school records in five different events: 400m, 600m, 800m, 1500m, and the mile. She was a seven-time Ivy League champion in cross country and track events, a four-time Heps champion, a two-time Heps record-holder, and a 1980 All-American. In 1981, she was the NCAA indoor 800m champion; in 1982, she was the NCAA indoor mile champion. Outside of Harvard, she was a finalist at the 1984 and 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 1500m.

1983 The Harvard soccer field is renamed Chris Ohiri Field in honor of the soccer star.

1987 Former Harvard standout athletes James Brown andDan Jiggetts became the first African-American broadcast team for a network television game they covered the NFL for CBS Sports.

1990 Not only did Meredith Rainey score in six events at the Outdoor Heps Championship, she capped the season by becoming the first black female in Ivy history to earn an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. Rainey went on to compete in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics in the 800 meters, including a semifinals appearance in Atlanta.

1997 Tom Blake became the first African-American to be named the Ivy League men's tennis Player of the Year. Two years later, his brother, James, earned the same honor.

1998 Allison Feaster became the first-ever Ivy League women's basketball player to be named an All-American. She also became the first Ivy League African-American female to play professional basketball in the United States when she suited up for the L.A. Sparks (Feaster now starts for the Charlotte Sting). Feaster led the Crimson to three-straight League championships and NCAA tournament appearances. She was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1994-95 and then went on to collect an unprecedented three Ivy League Player of the Year honors. When she graduated, Feaster held several League records, including points scored in a season (389) and a career (1,173) and scoring average for a season (27.8 ppg, 1997-98) and a career (21.0 ppg 1994-98).

1999 The Ivy League celebrated its 25th year of women's championships during the 1998-99 academic year. In honor of the many women who have excelled in their sport, the League announced its Silver Anniversary Honor Roll. Twelve African-American women were named to the list. Basketball great Allison Feaster '98 and track and field star Meredith Rainey '90 were honored.

2000 It would be hard to imagine the Taylor twins having a better year than this. Brenda, competing for Harvard, and Lindsay, competing for Brown, combined to win eight individual events at the 2000 Indoor and Outdoor League Championships and both were named Academic All-Ivy. Brenda would win a national title in the 400m hurdles the following year and qualify for the World Championships while Lindsay would claim her fourth straight Indoor Pentathlon title. Brenda was the recipient of the 2001 Honda Award as the most outstanding track & field athlete in the country.

2001 Junior wide receiver Carl Morris led the Harvard Crimson to its first perfect season on the gridiron in 88 years. Morris, who entered his senior season with nearly every Harvard receiving record, was named the League's recipient of the Asa S. Bushnell Cup as the Most Valuable Player in the Ivies. As a senior in 2002, he was a candidate for the Walter Payton Award, the highest honor in Division I-AA football, and became the first two-time recipient of the Bushnell Cup in a quarter-century.

2002 Junior sprinter Chris Lambert was the Men's Outstanding Performer at the Outdoor Heps Championships in Annapolis after blazing through the competition. Lambert won both the 100m and 200m dashes and both times would have set Heps records, except that each was deemed wind-aided. Wind-aided marks are not eligible for record purposes. His 10.19 clocking in the 100m dash was nearly a half-second faster than his nearest competitor.

2002 The 1999 Ivy Player of the Year, James Blake of Harvard, won his first ever ATP tour title at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C., over the summer. Blake is also a member of the United States Davis Cup team.

2003 Sprint standout Chris Lambert found a new title -- that of World Champion. Lambert, running for the British squad at the World University Games in Daegu, South Korea, took the Gold medal in the 100-meter dash, posting a time of 10.44. At the NCAA Championships in June, Lambert had the best 200-meter times in both the preliminaries (20.71) and semifinals (20.73) before finishing fourth in the final in a time of 20.64

2003 Sports Illustrated named its 101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports and four of the selections had Harvard backgrounds --Jonathan Mariner of MLB, Terdema Ussery of the Dallas Mavericks, Ray Anderson of the Atlanta Falcons, and Peter Bynoe of Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe.

2004 Former Harvard Sports Information Director James E. Greenidge passed away at the age of 54. Greenidge was the Ivy League's first African-American SID. An invaluable member of the Boston sports community, Greenidge also served as media relations director for the New England Patriots as well a reporter for the Boston Globe 

2004 Clifton Dawson, just a sophomore, broke Harvard single-season records for both rushing yards (1,302) and touchdowns (18) as he emerged to be the best threat to ever challenge Ed Marinaro's all-time Ivy rushing record. With his entire junior and senior seasons remaining, Dawson is well over halfway to the all-time record. Dawson, of Scarborough, Ontario, had become the first freshman to earn first-team All-Ivy status as a running back. He do so after becoming the first Ivy freshman to ever rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season in 2003

2004 Harvard senior Kaego Ogbechie, of Diamond Bar, Calif., led the Crimson to the first Ivy Volleyball Championship in school history and finished as the most decorated player in school history. She was twice chosen as the League's Player of the Year (2002, 2004) and once received the Rookie of the Year award (2001). Ogbechie was a strong spiker and blocker, but also possessed an impressive floor game.

2007 Traci Green, The Sheila Kelly Palandjian Head Coach for Harvard Women's Tennis, became the first African-American woman to head any coaching staff at Harvard. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she previously served as head coach at Temple. Green has led Harvard to Ivy League titles in 2009 and 2017.

2007 Tommy Amaker, The Thomas G. Stemberg '71 Family Endowed Coach for Harvard Men's Basketball, was introduced as the program's head coach on April 13, 2007. He joined Traci Green as one of two black coaches at Harvard hired in 2007. In the 11 seasons since taking over as head coach of Harvard's men's basketball program, Amaker has reinvented the Crimson into an Ivy League power with a national presence. He has directed Harvard to a period of unprecedented prosperity in the form of four NCAA tournament appearances (2012-15), six Ivy League championships (2011-15, 2018) and six 20-win seasons (2010-15). Amaker is the all-time winningest coach with the Crimson, surpassing Frank Sullivan with a 74-66 win at Boston College Dec. 7, 2016. 

2010 James Frazier was named Harvard's Director of Strength & Conditioning in February of 2019. He oversees all strength & conditioning aspects for the nation's largest Division I athletic department with roughly 1,200 student-athletes, and was previously at Iowa and with the Chicago Bulls.

2010 Following a career that included a program record-tying 47 goals, Andre Akpan was drafted in the second round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft by the Colorado Rapids. At the time he was the highest draft choice in program history, and he went on to make 63 professional appearances in the MLS and USL.

2010 Ted Minnis, The Friends of Harvard Water Polo and James Herscot '58 Coach of Excellence, came to Harvard as both men's and women's head coach. During his tenure, he has led the water polo programs to new heights, including trips for the men to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and 2017. In 2016, the men's program reached the final four, and he is now the winningest coach in school history for both programs. 

2013 and 2014 Defensive end Zach Hodges wins back-to-back Asa S. Bushnell Cups as Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first player to do so since Carl Morris in 2001 and 2002. Hodges was also the 2014 winner of the George "Bulger" Lowe Award, presented to the top defensive player in New England. Hodges helped the Crimson win Ivy League titles in 2011, 2013 and 2014, including an undefeated season in 2014. 

2016-17 One of the most prolific players in program history, Margaret "Midge" Purce was selected as a first team All-American and was a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Award as a senior. Purce was later selected with the ninth pick of the first round in the 2017 NWSL Draft, becoming the highest draft choice in program history. Purce later earned a pair of call-ups to the United States Women's National Team.

2018 Seth Towns joined a pair of Crimson standouts, Keith Wright (2011) and Wesley Saunders (2014), in being tabbed the Ivy League Player of the Year. Towns was the first underclassman to win the award in more than a decade, and was just the second sophomore in the conference's history to be crowned the top overall player. Towns averaged 18.6 points per game during Ivy play, and was also named AP All-America honorable mention.

2018 Gabby Thomas captures the 200m crown at the NCAA Indoor Championships, setting a new collegiate record with her 22.38 mark in her final heat. Thomas broke a 10-year collegiate and meet record, previously held by Bianca Knight of Oregon (22.40, March 14, 2008). Thomas set numerous records at Harvard and currently holds the indoor records in the 60m (7.25), 200m (22.38), 300m (37.47), and was a member of the record holding 4x400m relay team. On the outdoor track, she holds Harvard records in the 100m (11.19), 200m (22.32), long jump (6.27m), and set school marks as a member of the 4x100m, 4x200m, and 4x400m relays. She was a five-time Heps Outstanding Performer of the Meet honoree, earning Most Outstanding Track Performer of the Meet four times (two indoor, two outdoor) and the 2018 Outdoor Heps Most Outstanding Field Performer of the Meet award.