Breaking Through the Line: The N.F.L.'s First African American, Bobby Marshall. Bobby Marshall, one of the greatest athletes who ever lived, was the first African American to play in the National Football League. In 1920 he played for the Rock Island Independents.
He is the Jackie Robinson of football!
The racism he faced was even worse than the racism Jackie Robinson faced in 1947. Marshall was an All American at the University of Minnesota in 1905 and 1906 and lived his life in Minneapolis. In the 1920s and 30s the racism in Minnesota was significant. The KKK had 100,000 members in Minnesota alone! The Minnesota Eugenics Society, founded by well-educated scientists and MDs advocated sterilization of non-white undesirables. Minnesota Eugenics Society founder, Charles Dight MD, exchanged congratulatory letters with Adolph Hitler. White racism was prevalent among both well-educated and not-so-well educated Minnesotans of that time.
Bobby Marshall, a trained lawyer, advocate for farmers in the Minnesota state grain commission, and star athlete in football, baseball, and ice hockey, refuted racist stereotypes by his personal example.