The Steubenville & Jefferson County Visitor Center will dedicate its newest mural recognizing native son Moses Fleetwood Walker on Sunday October 7th at 2:00pm at the mural located at 139 N. 3rd Street, Steubenville.
Walker, who was born in Mount Pleasant in 1857, was the first African American to play major league baseball in the 19th century. He played baseball while at Oberlin College, then at the University of Michigan and ultimately for the American Association’s Toledo Blue Stockings (1883-1884). But the team received threats due to Walker’s appearance as catcher and he soon had to leave the team. After Walker played his last game for Toledo, no other African American would play in major leagues until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.
The story of Fleetwood Walker is the sad tale of the rise of Jim Crow and racial discrimination at the end of the 19th and into the 20th century. Not many people who live in the area are aware of his history, of a man who tried to be successful in his field, of the threats and abuse he received just because of the color of his skin. This is part of our history; we mustn’t neglect or forget it.
Through the efforts of Craig Brown of Salem, Ohio, and his students at the Salem branch of Kent State University and Stark State College in North Canton, a bill to designate October 7th as Moses Fleetwood Walker Day in Ohio was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Kasich. Brown will be one of the speakers at the event in Steubenville. Rich Donnelly, a Steubenville native who has been a professional coach for several major league teams will also speak.
An exhibit on Walker is housed in the Jefferson County Historical Association Museum on Franklin Avenue in Steubenville and will be open that day to the public.
Jeff Evans, who will be present at the dedication developed a lesson plan to tie Walker’s history to the history of racism in the United States. Walker went on to other things, including running a hotel in Steubenville and a movie theater in Cadiz, but died an anguished man in 1924. He and his brother Welday are both buried in Union Cemetery.
The purpose of the City of Murals is not only to decorate buildings and bring tourists to visit the city but to educate the residents as well. By visiting the murals, people can learn more about the history of the community and of the country. Teachers are encouraged to use them as resources and additional information will gladly be provided for their classwork.
The mural which was created by artist Ruston Baker depicts a period baseball card and was painted with permission on the building of attorney Jerry Boswell.
For more information, call the Visitor Center at 740.283.1787.