(CHATHAM, ON) – Members of the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame joined researchers and students from the University of Windsor to mark the awarding of an OTF Grant to fund Breaking the Colour Barrier: Wilfred Boomer Harding and the Chatham Coloured All Stars. This project will collect oral histories and digitize photographs, newspaper clippings, and other artefacts to preserve and document the history of Boomer Harding and the Chatham Coloured All Stars.
MPP Rick Nicholls and OTF Grant Review Team member Jim Stein were on hand to present the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame and the University of Windsor with a plaque and to hear how this project will have an impact on future generations of students, scholars, and community members.
“Wilfred Boomer Harding was a champion in sport and in life,” said Rick Nicholls, MPP for Chatham-Kent-Essex. “By breaking down barriers in many sports, he helped bring our community together and paved the way for future legends like Fergie Jenkins. His story is our story, and this project will ensure that it is passed down for many generations to come.”
Wilfred Harding (1915-1991) was a black athlete who broke colour barriers in several sports in the 1930s and 1940s. He was also a member of the Chatham Coloured All Stars, the first black team to win an Ontario Baseball Association provincial championship in 1934.
Thanks to the $72,500 grant, students and faculty members at the University of Windsor will build on the work done by and for the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame to bring attention to these historic athletes.
Students will interview descendants of the players to document this fascinating and fragile history for future generations. These oral interviews, along with the digitized documents, photo galleries, and virtual exhibits will be made accessible to students, scholars, and the general public on a website.
The site will also include curricular materials and lesson plans so teachers in elementary and secondary schools can bring the history of the Chatham Coloured All Stars into the classroom. The project team will also develop traveling exhibitions and historical plaques to celebrate this important story.
“This project helps us to honour members of the Chatham community for their contributions to sports and to preserve this history for future generations,” noted Don Bruner, Treasurer of the Chatham Sports Hall of Fame. “This project helps us build on our efforts to preserve Chatham Sports History.”
Over the next twelve months, a rich and engaging website will be developed and a full launch of the site will happen in June 2017. You can visit the site and watch for additions and updates throughout the year. You can also follow the progress of the Harding Project on Twitter at @boomerharding.
Miriam Wright of the History Department, University of Windsor, said, “We are excited about the opportunity to help make this important story accessible to the local community as well as to people across the country.”
The leading grant-making foundation in Canada, the Ontario Trillium Foundation strengthens the capacity of the voluntary sector through investments in community-based initiatives. An agency of the Government of Ontario, OTF builds healthy and vibrant communities.
“The OTF grant will allow us to collect this often overlooked part of Canadian history and preserve it so these important voices and vital stories are not lost,” said Heidi Jacobs of the University of Windsor’s Leddy Library.