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The Struggle of Black Athletes in Oregon

History brought to light in new book

Olivia Olivia | 7/23/2014, 12:31 p.m.
Portlander Herman L. Brame is taking on sports history in his new book, The Long Ebony Line: The First 100 ...
Herman L. Brame of Portland and his new book The Long Ebony Line: The First 100 Years of African American Athletes in Oregon, Circa 1860 – 1960. Photo by Michael Leighton

Portlander Herman L. Brame is taking on sports history in his new book, The Long Ebony Line: The First 100 Years of African American Athletes in Oregon, Circa 1860 – 1960.

Brame got immersed in the subject early this year when he started offering live presentations about the early history of African American football players in Oregon for the Oregon Historical Society. He took his lectures to the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, where he discovered that the subject would be useful as a full book that might be available to everyone.

Brame hopes that his book and lectures will provide the foundation for a documentary on the same subject, and said that his target audience are young people and specifically teenage youth. He said the graphics-based book could also provide easy-reading material for adults in search of the same information.

Brame also plans to follow up The Long Ebony Line with a second book that focuses specifically on the 60s and 70s.

“The 1960s in particular provided a historically significant confluence of the Civil Rights Movement and athletics,” he said, and for this reason he feels like a second book exclusively focusing on the time period could be especially informative.

Brame himself was a track and field runner and the University of Oregon during the 60s, and graduated from Jefferson High School in Portland.

The Long Ebony Line takes us through the great Black athletes of Oregon, and shows us everything from the lynching of young boxer Alonzo Tucker in 1902 to the appointment of Vera Johnson to the Roosevelt High School team in Portland, as she became Oregon’s first Black female varsity high school athlete in 1959.

“Racism in athletics is often countered by the objective measurement of ability found most often in athletic competition,” said Brame of these moments in Black athletic history. “Sometimes you benefit from things that were hard won and you don’t even realize it,” he said. , “Like a baseball game, staying at a hotel, or joining a team. I wanted people to know. My hope is that young people reading this will be a new vessel for this history and that they’ll carry it forward.”

For updates on Brame’s lectures and news on his book, follow him at Oregonstars.com.

--Olivia Olivia