Born in 1897 in Philadelphia, Effa Manley was an American baseball executive who co-owned the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League alongside her husband, Abe Manley. In 2006, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Often, we know the important facts about historical people, or at least the key to their prominence. But we don’t usually talk about who those historical figures were before they became well known.
Although both of Effa Manley's biological parents were believed to be white, she was raised by her white mother and Black stepfather alongside her biracial half-siblings and lived in a neighborhood that had a Black majority. Some people in the community identified Effa as white, while others thought she was Black. While some saw this as a disadvantage, she used it to her benefit. For example, when it came to job opportunities, she referred to herself as white.
After high school, Manley moved to New York City, where her fight for civil rights and her love of baseball began. She often went to Yankee Stadium to watch Babe Ruth play. She also started to put her focus and energy into social organizations and causes. Her first marriage ended in divorce, but in 1932, Effa met her second husband at a World Series game. His name was Abraham Manley.
Abe already had established his footing in the baseball community, and together they formed a partnership and co-owned the Eagles Negro League baseball team. Effa Manley's job with the club was to schedule their travel games, handle contracts, buy equipment and meet payroll. She soon gained recognition for her skills at promoting the team. Whether it was on or off the field, she was always helping her players with jobs, family and transportation for games, among other things. She had many responsibilities in her role as the Negro National League treasurer.
Under Manley’s ownership, the Newark Eagles won the 1946 Negro World Series.
Because Manley was an activist, she used Eagles games to promote her other civic causes. For example, she put together a boycott when Harlem stores refused to hire Black people. After six weeks passed, store owners finally agreed to hire Blacks to work in their stores.
Not only was Effa Manley the treasurer for the Negro National Baseball League, but she was also the treasurer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She and her team set an example for everyone that Black people deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
Everywhere she went, Manley always kept the best interests of Black people in mind. In fact, for many years people assumed she was Black because of how invested she was in the Black community. Undeniably, Effa Manley helped change the face of baseball during the golden age of the Negro Leagues. As a result, Effa was the first -- and thus far, only -- woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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