In 1930, the “John Fulton” American Legion Post No. 272 was formed in Akron, Ohio. The post organized a wartime basketball team that won the Akron city championship for the 1944-45 season.
The fourth in a series of posts honoring vintage all-black U.S. military basketball teams.
The United States military was still segregated during World War II. In fact, African American soldiers were assigned to separate units until the end of the Korean War in 1953, despite orders from President Harry Truman in 1948 to integrate the armed services.
According to its website, the American Legion was “chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic, war-time veterans organization, devoted to mutual helpfulness.”
But just like active duty armed forces, the American Legion was racially segregated too.
In 1932 the American Legion “John Fulton” Post No. 272 was granted its charter in Akron, Ohio as an African American post.
But there’s evidence that, right from the beginning, Akron’s new Legion post wasn’t as strict with regard to Jim Crow treatment. At least not judging from this narrative by the Chicago Defender about the 1933 American Legion Parade at Soldier’s Field in Chicago:
The American Legion draws the color line — no doubt about it. But there was no evidence of it in the Ohio delegation. Black men and white marched side by side in the Ohio contingent, and they received a big hand from the crowd. One post from Akron had at least 10 members of the Race in it. And they weren’t segregated either.
Members of Post No. 272 performed civic duties and actively pursued various projects whose aim was to help improve working conditions within the black community.
The post organized a wartime basketball team that won the Akron city championship for the 1944-45 season.
Little is known about this basketball team.
American Legion Post No. 272 also funded services and programs — in connection with the city’s Recreation Department — toward the education and active engagement of local students.
Its post-war efforts to “obtain better positions for Negroes” did manage to pay off. “Their first victory occurred when in 1949 they were able to secure a job for Clarence Harris as the first Negro milk truck driver for a local milk company,” according to Akron historian Shirla Robinson McClain.
(Please join the new Facebook Group honoring vintage all-black U.S. military basketball teams.)