Out of the Shadows: African American Baseball from the Cuban Giants to Jackie Robinson

By Bill Kirwin | Go to book overview

GAI INGHAM BERLAGE


Effa Manley
A Major Force in Negro Baseball
in the 1930s and 1940s

EFFA MANLEY, co-owner of the Newark Eagles, a Negro baseball team, was one of the most colorful and influential people in Negro baseball during the 1930s and 1940s. As one writer noted, “[n]o figure cast a larger shadow in Negro baseball in its late period than the amazing Effa Manley.”1 In the 1930s and 1940s women were secondclass citizens and blacks had few, if any, rights. She managed to become a respected force, not only in the Negro Leagues, but also in the black civil rights movement.

Effa Manley's birth, as her life, was filled with controversy. Although people assumed she was a light-skinned black, she claimed that she was white. According to her, her mother was white, of German and (Asian) Indian descent. Effa claimed that her mother, who did sewing for wealthy white families, became pregnant by her white employer, John Marcus Bishop, a well-off Philadelphian. Her black stepfather, Mr. Brooks, sued Mr. Bishop for alienation of his wife's affections, and in an out-of-court settlement Mr. Bishop paid $10,000. Effa grew up in a black community and culturally always identified with blacks.2 Within the black community, she rarely discussed her heritage. Most friends and acquaintances assumed she was black. One of her players described her “as a lightskinned black woman.”3 Effa's life became almost totally involved with baseball and civic affairs after she married Abe Manley, a successful numbers racketeer. Both were avid baseball fans, and both were to become an instrumental force in Negro baseball. Appropriately, they met at the 1932 World Series and were married the next June.4

Marriage to Abe changed Effa's life. His wealth enabled her to be part of Negro high society. As Effa bluntly put it, “I was a bastard and 75 years ago that was a terrible thing…. I was not accepted into the better circles of Negro society until I met Abe.”5 After marrying Abe she became a

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