Margaret Compton, a film archivist at the University of Georgia, recently discovered what is believed to be the earliest known moving images of African Americans playing baseball. The 26-second film of African Americans at the Pebble Hill Plantation near Thomasville, Georgia, was recently screened at the 26th Annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, co-sponsored by the State University of New York College at Oneonta and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Compton’s research has dated the film around 1919.
“To date, we have not heard of any earlier film footage of blacks playing baseball, nor have we heard of any other existing plantation employees’ baseball games on film, but we are always hoping to find more,” Compton said. “Showing the film at the Cooperstown Symposium helps spread the word to scholars and enthusiasts who can join in the search.”
The Pebble Hill Plantation was a hunting preserve bought in 1896 as a winter home by Howard Melville Hanna of Cleveland, Ohio. Many similar plantations in Georgia and North Florida had baseball teams made up of their Black employees. The plantation is now a museum and can be leased for weddings and corporate events.