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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 17, 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.

Why is there a Lions Jersey in a Packers exhibit?

Friday, December 21, 2018
Bob (Robert) Mann became the first African American player to play in a regular season game for the Green Bay Packers in 1950. Mid-season in 1950, a line coach for the Packers called Mann and asked him to play. He said no. They called again. This time they were successful in recruiting the receiver to Green Bay. Mann arrived on Saturday and played on Sunday.
But before that, Mann was one of the first African American players signed to the Detroit Lions. He played with them for two seasons. 

In 1949, during Bob Mann’s second season with the Detroit Lions, the team played the Philadelphia Eagles in New Orleans. Southern tradition banned African American players from playing at the stadium. Mann and his teammates Mel Groomes and Wallace Triplett were not allowed to play.

After discussion with the league, the Lions’ head coach Bo McMillin was given the option to break the color barrier. He refused. Instead of playing alongside their teammates, Mann, Groomes, and Triplett listened to the game at one of Mann’s relative’s homes in New Orleans.

“Bo told us he didn’t think he should be the one to break it. I thought to myself, ‘fine that’s his decision.’ Bo could have ended all that. He was supposed to be Mr. Great Liberal. But he didn’t do it. He just passed it by. He could have been a big guy, a big fellow, but he didn’t do it. I’ve never forgotten that…He had a chance to be a hero, step up to the plate, but he didn’t do it.”
-Bob Mann

In the exhibit “Delay of Game: Experiences of African American Football Players in Titletown” there is a Lions Jersey displayed (on loan from the Mann family). This jersey was given to Mann when we was honorary captain at the Lions vs. Packers game in 2002. A fitting game considering he broke the color barrier for both teams.

Lisa Kain
Curator

Top 5 Moments at the Museum in 2018

Friday, December 21, 2018
On October 26th, the exact anniversary of Brown County becoming the first county west of Lake Michigan, the county threw a birthday bash at the museum. More than 1,000 people joined us for the festivities. The day was full of family fun, cake, performances, and history. The party concluded with a dazzling laser light show projected on the museum!


2. Estamos Aqui wins National and State Awards 
The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) awarded the Neville the Award of Merit for Estamos Aquí (“We are Here”). The AASLH Leadership in History Awards is one of the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. The exhibit was also awarded the Museum Exhibit Award from the Wisconsin Historical Society. Estamos Aquí invited visitors to connect with the growing Latino communities that have made this region their home. The exhibit, which closed in May 2018, highlighted how these Latino populations are making positive contributions to the cultural, economic, and educational landscape of our region. 





A rare and large Civil War Era flag was conserved specially for display in the exhibit Our Brown County this year. This flag has been at the museum since 1934, and it was clear the 157 year old flag needed some care. There was extensive shredding and areas of loss that made it difficult to exhibit and care for. To exhibit the flag safely, while also considering preservation, the piece needed conservation. A highly trained specialist worked on the flag. They supported the flag by hand stitching nylon tulle around the stripes to stabilize the fabric. You can see it for yourself in person until September 2019!


4. Bob Mann’s Family Joins us for Delay of Game Opening
The family of Packers receiver and first African American to play for the team, Bob Mann, traveled to Green Bay to be at the opening of the exhibit Delay of Game: Experiences of African American Players in Titletown. Recruited in 1950, Mann joined the team just four years after Kenny Washington signed to the Rams in 1946 (One year before Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers). Mann’s daughters Marjorie and Marilyn, along with his wife Vera, also loaned artifacts for the exhibit. Delay of Game is open through March 10, 2019!




5. Morbid Curiosities
Morbid Curiosities returned in 2018 for its third year. This year 300 guests explored artifacts connected to big moments in world history. A game of Clue in Our Brown County added to the Halloween fun! If you missed it this year make sure to get tickets early for next year’s Morbid Curiosities!


Lisa Kain
Curator

Delay of Game Explores African American History

Friday, August 17, 2018
Bob Mann was the first African American to play in a regular season game for the Packers in 1950 During my summer internship at the Neville, I had the opportunity to work on Delay of Game: Experiences of African American Football Players in Titletown. When first told about the exhibition, I was thrilled to hear of the museum’s plans to explore African American history. But, because Delay of Game centers on the Packers, I worried football would overshadow the stories off the field. Thankfully, I was wrong. Not only did I learn more about the Packers, but also more about the community I grew up in. I found that the African American history of the Packers, and Brown County, reflected wider social histories. 

Packers First African American Player 
Bob Mann was the first African American Packer to play a regular season game. Recruited in 1950, Mann joined the team just four years after Kenny Washington signed to the Rams in 1946 (One year before Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers). Washington was the first black NFL player since 1933.

Packers and Jim Crow
Into the 1960s the Packers continued to integrate football. The team broke black player restrictions and bypassed Jim Crow hotel rules. While there was still much progress to be made in professional sports, Green Bay was at the forefront of player equality. That does not mean that black players had it easy. During his first trip to the South, Willie Wood was subject to discrimination. He was thrown out of a hotel lobby, and a cab, because they were white only. Before making it to his hotel room, Wood was fuming. The treatment that Wood faced was far too common in the black community.

1961 Green Bay Packers Team





NFL Commissioner Tries to Stop an Interracial Marriage in Green Bay 
Lionel Aldridge, however, faced difficulty in Wisconsin. Aldridge wanted to marry his college girlfriend, Vicky, but had to think twice because she was white. Cookie Gilchrist had been blacklisted from the NFL for his interracial marriage, and Aldridge feared he faced the same fate. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle visited Green Bay and attempted to stop the marriage. In 1967, the same year as Loving v. Virginia, Aldridge married Vicky.

Through my internship, I gained museum education and knowledge about my hometown. It is important for people to take the time to learn about their community and the people within. Different people are subjected to different experiences; we all must be aware of that. Not everyone shares the same privileges, as Delay of Game shows. Jordy Nelson sums it up well, “… just because I don’t see it, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Noah Mapes
Intern
University of Wisconsin

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