Gov. Patrick Visits Springfield School For Black History Month Event
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick marked Black History Month with a visit to an elementary school in Springfield today. The governor highlighted a remarkable part of the city’s past.
Governor Patrick read a book to a group of about 50 third grade students at the William DeBerry Elementary school.
The book A Homerun for Bunny tells the story of an all-star baseball team from Springfield American Legion Post 21 and the lone black member on the team, Ernest “Bunny” Taliaferro. When the team of 15-year-olds traveled in 1934 to play a national championship tournament in Gastonia, North Carolina, they came face to face with overt racism accompanied by threats of violence.
Given an ultimatum to play without “Bunny” or not play at all, the team voted unanimously to refuse to play. They returned to Springfield and a hero’s welcome.
" It is a powerful story," said Patrick. " It is a story about courage and teamwork and common cause and how ordinary people can do extraordinary things. It is a very moving story as well."
The author of the recently published book, Springfield College professor Richard Anderson, said the story of the Post 21 baseball team became folklore known primarily to older generations of Springfield residents, but is now spreading beyond the city.
" This is a feel good story. It is a story that gives pride to the community and hope for the future. Governor Deval Patrick contributes to that. His coming here makes Springfield proud and gives this community hope."
One of the people present Tuesday to hear Governor Patrick read the book to the school children was Tony King. He was the captain of the 1934 baseball team and is the only member still living.
" The younger generation now they don't realize what black people went through in those days."
“Bunny” Taliaferro died of a heart attack at the age of 50.
Springfield School Superintendent Dan Warwick said copies of the book have been put in each of the city’s elementary school libraries.
" This is a story people should know about. It is a great part of Springfield's history. Those kids voting to forgo an opportunity to win a national championship to do the right thing against racism is noteworthy."
Governor Patrick also visited a fifth grade classroom, where as part of the class study of prominent African-Americans he answered questions about his personal history.
Patrick met later with representatives from several organizations in Springfield that have received state funding through an initiative started by Patrick three years ago to curb youth violence. Patrick said he believed progress was being made
Patrick has asked the legislature for $9. 5 million in the next state budget to continue funding for youth violence prevention programs.