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The 1921 PSU football team is shown at the Sports History exhibit at the Bicknell Family Center, Garfield Weede was the coach at the time. Megan Brownell

New Bicknell Center Exhibit- Celebrating Athletics History Highlighting Black Athletes

The 1921 PSU football team is shown at the Sports History exhibit at the Bicknell Family Center, Garfield Weede was the coach at the time. Megan Brownell

From Jan. 29 to March 26, there is a new exhibit at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, showing off the history of PSU athletics, in particular highlighting black athletes as well as the progress Garfield Weede made for desegregation in sports. The pictures and information from the exhibit itself were found in university archives at the Axe Library.

“We wanted to do something about sports history for this exhibit, and with February being Black History Month, we wanted to showcase something dealing with integration as it is a part of our history,” said Shawna Witherspoon, the client services and gallery coordinator for the Bicknell Center.

One of the highlighted athletes is George Sweatt. He was a part of the football team as well as the baseball team and attended PSU (then called the State Manual Normal Training School) 1919-1922. After graduation, Sweatt then played in the Negro Baseball League professionally for the Kansas City Monarchs and played there 1922-1925. After playing for the monarchs, he then went on to play for the Chicago American Giants, becoming the only regular player to appear in the first four Negro League World Series with both teams, 1924-1927.

Another athlete highlighted was Kermit King. He attended PSU (then called Kansas State Teachers College (KSTC)) 1933-1937. While here in Pittsburg, he competed on the track and field team in the long jump. In 1936, he competed in the Olympic qualifiers, but missed qualifying from the final jump within close numbers. Although he did not compete in the Olympics, he had a perfect 30-0 record at KSTC, as well as a USA Champion and ranked second in the world in 1937. Currently, he still holds the male long jump record with a jump of 25 feet, and 10 inches.

After his career at PSU, he opened several colleges in Africa, and interested parties can find a photo of him with former President Richard Nixon in the Axe Library archives.

In addition to these athletes being showcased, the exhibit also highlights Garfield Weede. He was hired by PSU in 1919 to be an athletic director, as well as a coach for all sports. During his time at PSU, he was a huge advocate for integration in sports especially at PSU. In the exhibit there are photographs of teams he coached, such as football and track, showing the integration he enacted his teams. During his years of fighting for integration, many schools from around the area that PSU would play, refused to play us unless we sat out our black athletes. 

For anyone wanting to find out more about this history, more information can be found in University Archives with Steve Cox, and the exhibit will stay up in the Bicknell until the last weekend in March.

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