Team photograph of the 1943 Homestead Grays. Photo: Library of Congress

Washington's Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball

September 14, 2004
Award-winning sports reporter and author Brad Snyder led off the Overbeck Project’s 2004-05 lecture season on September 14 with a look at professional baseball in Washington in the 1940s.

In those years the city’s fans could choose between the Washington Senators, who hovered near the bottom of the segregated major leagues, and the Homestead Grays, one of the greatest teams in the history of the Negro Leagues, with legendary sluggers Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard, among others.

Snyder described how the contrast between the two teams and the dogged advocacy of local sports reporter Sam Lacy made Washington, D.C. a focal point in the campaign to integrate major league baseball well before the Brooklyn Dodgers broke the color barrier with the signing of Jackie Robinson.

Brad Snyder is author of the widely acclaimed Beyond the Shadow of the Senators: The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball (Contemporary Books, 2003). The New York Times Book Review called it “a rich panorama of Washington as it evolved from a Southern provincial town to a large city with a black majority … Snyder’s book is not just the history of a team but the tale of one city in all its social complexity.”

In the early 1990s, Snyder was a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, where he covered the Orioles and also Baltimore city crime and Capitol Hill. He left the Sun to earn a law degree at Yale and later practiced briefly with Williams and Connolly LLP, before returning full-time to his first love – writing about the business and sociology of sports.

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