Wenxian Zhang, head of archives and special collections at Olin Library, recently published a journal article entitled “Race and Sport in the Florida Sun: The Rollins/Ohio Wesleyan Football Game of 1947,” which appeared in the winter 2019 issue of Phylon: The Clark Atlanta University Review of Race and Culture.
Co-authored with Raja Rahim (University of Florida) and Julian Chambliss (Michigan State University) and based on archival documents, this essay tells the story of the cancelled 1947 football game between Rollins College and Ohio Wesleyan University.
Despite notable social progress since World War II, Florida in the late 1940s remained a frontier state in terms of racial relations since state law still prohibited mixed-raced participation in any educational programs. When Ohio Wesleyan, led by Branch Rickey, insisted on bringing an African-American player to the football game with Rollins, the College’s President Hamilton Holt failed to take a stand against racial injustice, fearing violence, even though the cancellation of the game was against his personal beliefs. Notwithstanding his own limit and surrender to political pressures in the segregated South of his time, Holt ultimately stood on the right side of history and made his mark on social integration in the United States.