By Zahra McDoom
Ball is never just ball, it tells the story of anti-black racism, defiance and community.
The photograph above is significant. This 1920s image is the only known picture of a Black women’s softball team in Ontario. Showing London’s Elite team, several of these women, played important roles in shaping Ontario’s Black histories over the course of the 1920s.
This digital photograph of the team was shared with me during my research into the late 19th Century Ontario-based Ball Family Jubilee Singers. Using the Dawn of Tomorrow, a Black Canadian newspaper published in London (1923-1971), a pamphlet from The Canadian League of the Advancement of Colored People (CLACP, 1927), and interviews with older Black Londoners Barry Howson and Gerry Anderson, I was able to attach a name to the team, identify players, and begin to tell their story.
Much of Black history, and Black women’s history is erased, undocumented, or misconstrued through dominant white claims, but through these Black produced creations – the photo, the Dawn, CLACP, Black oral histories – we learn that the player’s ancestors self-emancipated, the women were politically active, their men worked as railway porters, and that Black people in Canada needed to possess a newspaper to stir up change. From the photograph we gather that Black women came together, sometimes in pearls, to play ball. Continue reading