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Where Did Lombardi-Era African American Players Live?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Imagine moving to a new city for a dream job. The first thing you do is look for a place to live. What do you do if you can’t find one? This is what African American players faced when they moved to Green Bay. Jim Crow laws and racism were most evident in the South, but racism was also a present in the North. For example, a De Pere development barred African Americans and Jewish people from living there in 1948.[1] This was only two years before Bob Mann (the first African American player to start for the team) joined the Packers.

With few places willing to rent to them, African American players were forced to live in small cabins, the YMCA, and hotels. Some even stayed in a room at an extermination business owned by former player Tony Canadeo’s brother.[2] When Herb Adderley came to Green Bay, he lived in the “little shack down by the tracks.” In 1961, Adderley, Davis, and Pitts shared a one-bedroom place on Velp Avenue.[3]

African Americans living in Green Bay faced many of the same challenges whether they played football or not. Housing was hard to find without facing discrimination. For example, in 1959, the Wisconsin State Reformatory hired Joseph Harris, an African American social worker. Joseph met discrimination when attempting to buy a home in Green Bay.[4] He was also subject to race-based harassment. Harris said in a Green Bay Press-Gazette article: “[t]here would be rotten eggs and vegetables on my porch in the morning. Once someone painted ‘nigger go home’ on my door. But a deliveryman washed it off.”[5]

Coach Lombardi did what he could to help ensure decent housing for his players. Things started to change when the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. The act prohibits discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, or sex.[6] While both Lombardi’s help and the Fair Housing Act were steps in the right direction, it was still difficult finding a place to live in a predominantly white community.


Learn more about Civil Rights and Green Bay in Delay of Game: Experiences of African American Players in Titletown open through March 24, 2019,

Lisa Kain
Curator

[1] Tashjian, Victoria. “Area Home to Growing Black Population in 19th Century,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, June 11, 2015.
[2] Christl, Cliff. Packers Heritage Trail: The Town, The Team, The Fans From Lambeau to Lombardi. Stevens Point, Wisconsin: KCI Sports Publishing, 2017.
[3] Adderley, Herb, Dave Robinson, and Royce Boyles. Lombardi’s Left Side. Olathe, Kansas: Ascend Books, 2012.
[4] “Welcome Joe Harris,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, February 21, 1961.
[5] Knaus, Bob. “No Race Problem Here? Homes, Jobs Hard to Find for Negroes in Green Bay,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, June 2, 1963.
[6] “Fair Housing- It’s Your Right,” HUD.GOV, accessed July 2018, https://www.hud.gov/topics/housing_discrimination.

African American Civil War Veteran Makes His Home in De Pere

Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Image courtesy of the De Pere Historical Society

Henry Sink was born into slavery in 1830 in Batesville, Alabama. He escaped slavery through unknown means and by 1864 he and his young family had made their way to Northeast Wisconsin. Sink served in the Union Army during the Civil War. It was the only time he spent away from Wisconsin, with the exception of some time spent in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.


Though African Americans in nineteenth century Wisconsin faced racism, they persevered and made lives for themselves here. Henry worked in Fond du Lac, Green Bay, and De Pere as a factory fireman, day laborer, and sailor. He learned to read and write here. Henry and his wife were recognized by the Brown County Democrat as “leaders of De Pere’s colored population.” He was a member of the De Pere post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization for Union veterans.



From the Neville Public Museum Collection
The Civil War abolished slavery but discrimination and racism continued. In 1900 Henry Sink purchased a home in De Pere, to the unremarkable notice of the local paper. However, Henry would not have been welcome as a De Pere homeowner in subsequent decades, when the gains made by African Americans during Reconstruction faced backlash across the nation.


In 1928 in De Pere, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross less than a half mile north of where Henry had owned his home. In 1948, less than a half mile south of his home, a new De Pere subdivision barred African American (and Jewish) home ownership. Northeast Wisconsin’s African American population plummeted in the early decades of the twentieth century.







Content courtesy of Victoria B. Tashjian, Ph.D.




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