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Lawmakers honor first African American MLB player on "Fleetwood Walker Day" at mural unveiling

October 5, 2018
Democrat Newsroom

State Reps. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), Thomas West (D-Canton) and David Leland (D-Columbus) will deliver remarks in a mural dedication ceremony honoring the nation’s first professional African American baseball player, Moses Fleetwood Walker, on Sunday, October 7 at 1:30 p.m. in Steubenville. Legislation sponsored by the lawmakers naming October 7, Walker’s birthday, as “Moses Fleetwood Walker Day” in the state of Ohio was signed into law last year.

“Walker’s life story is a perfect example of how we must continue working together to create a world in which everyone has the opportunity to reach their God-given potential,” said Cera. “I’m glad that Jefferson County is memorializing such a gifted athlete and brave American.”

Walker began his professional baseball career with the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1883, but his career was cut short in 1889 when both the American Association and the National League unofficially banned African American players. It was not until 1947 when the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson finally broke the color barrier.

“Honoring Moses Walker is more than just remembering a baseball player,” said Leland. “It is a reminder of who we are as a Nation, whose Constitution vows to protect everyone’s inalienable rights to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’. It is also a cautionary tale, because sometimes, after we get something right, we lose our way. So as we honor Moses Fleetwood Walker, we remember that the battle for equality and justice is never finished.”

The mural was painted by artist Ruston Baker. An exhibit on Walker, housed in the Jefferson County Historical Association Museum, will be open to the public that day.

“Moses Walker is yet another hidden figure that is owed the respect for breaking color barriers during the era of Jim Crow and violent racism. Still, he persisted,” said West. “His story resonates with countless individuals, as it inspires those seeking courage during challenging and trying times. Walker’s life is an important piece of Ohio history and American history.”