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The integration of the American Bowling Congress: the Buffalo experience

Bowling, a highly interactive sport, was by 1945, a billion dollar industry that touched the lives of an estimated 12 to 16 million Americans. It had reached this status in great part due to its promotion by the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII and because unlike football or baseball anyone with a few dollars and the desire could play. (2) But the American Bowling Congress (ABC), bowling's governing body, had in its bylaws a "white males only" clause which it had strictly enforced since its incorporation in 1893. By 1945, at wars end, a number of civil rights and civic organizations and progressive white individuals concluded that segregation in American society was a baleful social malignancy that had to go. From organizations such as the NAACP, National Urban League, B'nai B'rith and others, plans were formulated to end segregation in America's most popular participant sport.

These organizations joined with the United Auto Workers--Congress of Industrial Organizations (UAW-CIO) and other labor unions in the effort to end the whites-only policy of the ABC. All these organizations together then asked the Mayor of Minneapolis, Hubert H. Humphrey to head up an umbrella organization called the National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling. Humphrey was the ideal person, for he was a long time supporter of labor and an ardent civil rights activist. In fact, as Mayor of Minneapolis, he had led the city in passing the first Municipal Fair Employment Practices ordinance in the United States. (3)

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