Walker, Moses Fleetwood

Walker, Moses Fleetwood

baseball players, businessmen, civil rights pioneers. Sons of an Ohio physician, as students the Walker brothers helped organize and played on the Oberlin College varsity baseball team. In 1883 "Fleet" played on Toledo's Northwestern League team; when Toledo was accepted in the American Association in 1884, he became the first African-American in the major leagues, batting .263 in 42 games and earning respect as a catcher. Welday played five games as a major league outfielder in 1884, batting .182. In 1887 the International League voted to bar contracts with blacks, and the Walker brothers' careers soon declined. In 1889 "Fleet," playing with Syracuse in the International League, became the last African-American in that league. In 1895 he killed a man in self-defense in a racial attack in Syracuse, and although exonerated, he left town and went to Steubenville, Ohio, where his brother Welday followed him. They managed a hotel there and eventually owned some motion picture theaters. Meanwhile the brothers had become increasingly open in their opposition to the growing segregation in American society, and Moses became the editor of the Equator, a periodical devoted to African-American concerns. In 1908 the brothers published Our Home Colony—A Treatise on the Past, Present and Future of the Negro Race in America, now regarded as ranking among the earliest of the 20th-century works to advocate the return of African-Americans to Africa. The Walker brothers even set up a travel office to aid African-Americans to go to Liberia.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.