Perhaps one of the most interesting and accomplished athletes of all time was Hume Le Prince Battiste, — as well as the story behind his name and how it is tied to his maternal family legacy. His abilities as a multitalented sportsman are such that few have explored them in detail. And it is remarkably difficult to try and not have total admiration this ‘Everyman’ of the early 20th century, who excelled at sports and life in general; only to have his athletic accomplishments become forever lost in the annals of history, unable to find that special place of recognition. For the most part, they still remain shelved among the dusty archives that could never do him the justice he truly deserves. Such achievements remain overlooked. There is no personal judgements on Battiste, because there is no reason to opine about his moral character.
Hume was a well liked, simple man, who lived a simple life.
Still, Battiste broke the color line barriers in the world of sports, where only a few others have tread and been held in such high acclaim for achieving these athletic milestones.
For as little as he is spoken of as a sports figure, Hume Le Prince Battiste was an African American, in all manners and respects as it applies to his lineage, from the time of his birth to date of his death. By today’s standards, he would be considered a tri-racial isolate, because at the time of his birth on through to his death, this phrase did not even exist. And yet, we find that Battiste descended from one of the oldest, wealthiest, Rice producing families in American history. His given ‘christian’ name ‘Hume’, had a tremendous family history and regional legacy, embedded deep within South Carolina’s rice culture — that reaches back to some of the earliest Huguenot families that settled the swap lands of the early Carolinas along the Santee and Pee Dee rivers; in a place formerly called San Miguel de Gualdape, when this colony transitioned from Spanish America to British America.
The Goose Creek Men of South Carolina laid down the roots of a new American political system, which included illegal trade with Pirates of the Caribbean. Port Royal, South Carolina was designed very much like Port Royal, Jamaica. Goose Creek was rounded out with the Gola people of West Africa, also called Gullah in today’s modern society.
These early Goose Creek settlers were the American purveyors of the Golden Seed, Oryza glaberrima, from far off Madagascar — along with their rice growing slaves from the Rice Coast. Whose African rice culture legacies and rice growing technology, was transferred to the Americas through the Columbian Exchange, helping the early Southern colonies amass untold fortunes, and those fortunes are still spoken of with great reverence today.
It was a time when the early Carolina land holdings were distributed by Edward Hyde, first earl of Clarendon; George Monck, first duke of Albemarle; William Craven, first earl of Craven; Anthony Ashley Cooper, first earl of Shaftesbury; John Berkeley, first baron Berkeley of Stratton, and his brother Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia; Sir George Carteret; and Sir John Colleton; that moved the Carolinas into an age in American history when rice would become the third largest exported crop from Colonial America to Europe.
Rice as a commodity brought tremendous wealth into the British American colonies, substantial wealth to the British Empire, and perennial wealth to the United States after the Revolutionary War — for well over 200 years. Valued at £13 to £16 (£ = pound sterling) per hundredweight (s-cwt) in 1762, — rice farming drove the commodities market and the need for rice slaves. It was so expensive as a labor intensive product, it was monetarily comparable to exports like tobacco and sugar. So were the slaves that were used to grow rice because of their rice technology knowledge.
Prices in Colonial Pennsylvania – by Gray, Bezason, Hussey, pg. 402
Long Grain, Middlins, and Grits, were used for everything from feeding the extremely wealthy, to feeding the slaves. There was an age in the history of Colonial America in the South, when Cotton wasn’t King, …and Rice was; because you could not sustain life by eating cotton. Carolina Gold fed the wealthy, and Red Bearded or Hill rice fed the slaves.
Henry Laurens once wrote: “The Slaves from the River Gambia are preferr’d to all others with us [here in Carolina] save the Gold Coast…. next to Them the Windward Coast are preferr’d to Angolas.“.
Even though rice growing is based in the task system, early rice production was extremely labor intensive, where the average slave lived no longer than 7 years or less, based on fatigue and disease, and sometimes premature death from wildlife that lived in the swamps. The turnover rate for slaves was so great, that these knowledgeable rice slaves used for rice production required a constant influx of Senegambians captured by force and shipped between “Bance Island” (also known as Bunce Island), located in Tagrin Bay in Sierra Leone, and Sullivan’s Island, in South Carolina. These particular grain slaves fed many turnkey rice growing plantation operations that created a Middle Passage trade in overdrive. Bunce Island was one of hundreds of slave factories and castles that peppered the West coast of the African continent.
Bance Island — in Tagrin Bay, Sierra Leone
Hume Le Prince Battiste, “The Prince“, was the great-great-great grandson of Peter Hume (1690-1746) and Ann Curtis, the great-great grandson Robert Hume (1729-1766) and Ann Walker, the great grandson of John Hume (1762-1841) and Mary Mazyck, and the grandson of Dr. William Hume (1801-1870) and Julia L. Macbeth. The Hume familial wealth derived from a vast network of Rice plantations and slave breaking plantations owned and operated by the Hume Family, and this is well documented throughout early British American ‘Colonial’ history, Colonial American history, Antebellum history, and post Civil War history. Peter Hume, ‘the Patriarch’ and the head of the Hume clan, settled in South Carolina in 1729. The Hume family line descends from Robert the Bruce of Scotland.
The Anderson Intelligencer – February 06, 1873
What still remains hidden in the shadows of Jim Crow’s legacy to this day, — within this particular family’s history, — is the interracial union between Dr. William Hume and his ‘left handed marriage‘ otherwise known as an arranged relationship to Julia L. Macbeth, who gave birth to the majority of Dr. William Hume’s ‘living’ children. William Hume’s two previous wives, Catherine Simons Lucas and Eleanor “Elinory” Jane Lucas, more than likely succumbed to the ravages of disease in the early American swamp land of South Carolina.
Catherine and Eleanor were sisters, and also the daughters of Johnathan Lucas II, son of John Lucas — inventor of the rice mill, which was a British American invention that revolutionized rice production. These arranged marriages of convenience were quite commonplace in early America, and were considered practical where financial and political reasons were concerned. More than likely, both Catherine and Eleanor died from contracting Yellow Fever, which Dr, William Hume performed a series of obsessional scientific and statistical studies on, of this acute viral haemorrhagic disease and its causes. The causes, which he felt ranged from stagnant water that lay within the boundaries of Charleston proper, to the Middle Passage and West Indies slave trade into Charleston, which brought in a constant influx of the newly infected from Africa and the Caribbean Basin as well.
Catherine bore three children that died before they were a year old; and “Elinory” bore two children that survived until late in life.
Because the Hume/Macbeth plaçage arrangement was not legally recognized as a lawful union bound by the laws of marriage, all children born of Julia L. Macbeth followed the law of Partus Sequitur Ventrem. Where the freedom of the child follows the mother’s status, as far as the law was concerned. As for their familial heirship rights to livestock, chattel goods, land ownership and freehold estate inheritance, there was no recognition at all.
The Wedge, the Hopeswee-on-the-Santee (once owned by Thomas Lynch Sr., obtained in a land grant from King George II, it was also the birthplace of Thomas Lynch Jr.), the Goose Creek rice plantations, and Cat Island slave breaking plantation, along with thousands of acres, — and many other vast real estate holdings in the far reaches of South Carolina, would eventually pass on to the white heirs of the Hume family rice dynasty. Cat Island was a back door to the illegal slave trade from the West Indies, that came out of the Atlantic and entered into Winyah Bay, bypassing established Charlestown malaria, small pox, and yellow fever quarantines.
The Wedge Plantation House – circa 1923 (Charleston County)- courtesy of the Georgetown County Library.
Hopsewee-on-the-Santee Plantation House– – circa 1930 – Georgetown, Georgetown County, South Carolina
Goose Creek Plantation – Charleston, South Carolina
South-Carolina Gazette And Country Journal -Robert Hume’s estate runaway slave ad, 1700’s.
There have been those who have contested the concepts surrounding the plaçage common law marriage which took place between wealthy white men and black women; women who were referred to as ‘femmes de couleur‘ who lived among the gens du coleur libres, in early America. Jim Crow revisionist history skewed reality for something as simple as two people being involved in a common law relationship for the sake of mere companionship, as something that should be sensationalized and distorted into the myths, akin to the stories of the Tragic Mulatto like “Clotel, Or the President’s Daughter“, creating the never ending, repetitious circle of archetype vs. trope conundrum. Neither term fits the reality of the relationship between Dr. William Hume and Julia L. Macbeth.
The reasoning for this challenging plaçage created mystery may be caused by the limited amount of research on the issues surrounding plaçage in early America, focused mostly on relationships of couples from the French Quarter in Louisiana, — or specifically the city of New Orleans, — while disregarding all other Southern states and large cities all over the South remain ignored. Things such as ‘quadroon balls’ supposedly never took place. That these extralegal agreements based on plaçage, between two consenting parties, never existed. Some tend to embrace the idea that such arrangements were strictly performed through the use of oral contracts between consenting adults, because very little documentation has been recovered on how plaçage functioned as a contractual agreement. Yet, there is sparse documentation, showing in effect, that such long term arrangements were made between women of color and white men of wealth and prestige.
Some say there is no proof that such lifetime, extralegal relationships and agreements between wealthy men of the South, and what genteel society would consider their concubines, ever took place in civilized, genteel society — for moral and ethical reasons. The historical documentation of a long term relationship between Julia L. Macbeth and Dr. William Hume, showing Julia as his kept common law wife and the father of Julia’s seven living children cannot be disputed.
What financial arrangement or agreements took place between Anna Maria Roberson, Julia L. Macbeth’s mother, and Dr. William Hume still remains a mystery. There was both real estate and chattel property held in trust for Julia by William, and possibly for Anna Maria also; but there was also a reversion clause within the agreed upon arrangements of all holdings, for both Julia and her mother, upon their deaths. It should be noted for all intents and purposes, that Julia became William’s common law wife at the age of nineteen. And, their relationship lasted for close to two decades, until his death.
Hume’s mother, Martha Julia Hume Battiste, was born in April of 1866, after the Civil War ended, and her legacy to her father Dr. William Hume was to name her only child, Hume ‘le Prince’, after her father’s surname. The conception of a number of Julia’s children took place while Dr. William Hume was still teaching at the ‘South Carolina Military Academy’, also known as “The Citadel“, where he was a noted Professor of Chemistry, Geology, Mineralogy, and Experimental Science. Dr. William Hume was most admired, among his many accomplishments, for being the “last man at the Citadel” during the Civil War, as the young men of the Academy marched off to the Battle of Tulifinny.
“Official Register of the Officers and Cadets at the South Carolina Military Academy” – November 1849, pg.3
Freedmen’s Bureau Records – 1869 – John Hume, son of Julia L. Macbeth and Dr. William Hume, registered his family with the Freedmen’s Bureau, showing his brothers, William Hume, Edward Hume, Thomas Hume, Alford Hume, and sisters Martha Julia (Mattie) Hume and Anna Maria Hume. All of them lived in a two room house at 146 Comings Street, in Charleston, S.C. in 1869.
At the age of thirteen, John Hume, Batiste’s uncle who was named after his maternal grandfather, worked at the Shaw Memorial School, named after Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Regiment. As a Southern raised African American living in the post Civil War South, working at a school named after the Colonel that lead the assault on Fort Wagner, in Charleston, South Carolina, — during the rise of Jim Crow — seemed like risky business. Given his ability to read and write, that was a risky enough venture during Reconstruction period in the South.
Census of the City of Charleston, South Carolina -1861, pg. 72, showing No. 146 Comings Street, owned by Dr. William Hume, occupied by Julia L. Macbeth, Free Person of Color.
Dr. William Hume also lived in a property held in trust, located at No. 4 Mill Street, in Charleston, S.C., that was willed to his other children, William H. Hume and Annie Hume Mazyck; they were living children of Eleanor Jane Lucas Hume.
Reports of Committees: 45th Congress, 2nd Session – Senate, Report 460, June 4, 1878, to accompany Senate Bil 1352, page 7.
The “Old Citadel” has been renamed “Marion Square“, after General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox”. It is located within 8 minutes walking distance of 146 Comings Street, the former dwelling of Julia L. Macbeth. It should be noted that Julia L. Macbeth remained at 146 Coming Street, with her children, till at least the year 1880, according to the U.S. Census records. It should also be noted that Dr. William Hume passed away April 18, 1870, which means Julia remained in this dwelling ten years after his death.
Citadel Academy– Charleston S.C. Map, 1864
6th Ward -146 Comings Street – Between Warren and Radcliffe, Charleston S.C. Map, 1855
146 Comings Street to Marion Square
Julia Macbeth – U.S. 1880 Census Record showing, No. 146 Comings Street – son Edward, daughter Martha, and Julia’s mother, Anna “Maria” Roberson.
Yes, Hume Le Prince Battiste had both a former slave owning white family, and a Free Person of Color black family, which tells a seldom discussed history and truth of how America developed as a nation. That is truly the fascinating part about the Hume family legacy, along with the Lucas, Simons, Mayzck, Gadsden, and Doar families intertwined by marriage with the Humes. The fact is, Hume Le Prince Battiste ‘passed‘ for Native American successfully and no one ever questioned it. Even though they knew the truth. And as far as it is known about Battiste chosing to identifying as an “Indian”, he was the only person in the history of professional baseball to have gotten away with ‘passing’ for his entire baseball career; which was short lived and far away from the his ancestral birthplace in Beaufort County, South Carolina. The story behind Battiste passing as a Native American is one that was concocted by both sides of his family, and carried on by others for a number of reasons.
1) Because of his intelligence, Hume would be granted opportunities in life that the majority of his African American family could never take advantage of, based on the white family-black family legacy and their age, — where the ‘one-drop rule’ applied in the United States, and applied to al those with one drop of black blood in their family’s blood line.
2) Because his heritage as Southern Royalty overrode his dark complexion, although many people knew what family he came from, even if they never spoke of it aloud. It was very much an ‘open secret‘, and a dangerous position to be placed in, when living in the Jim Crow South, — if you were a person of color.
3) Because certain mixed children of Dr. William Hume took advantage of the limited freedom they were born with, and acquired an education that had eluded them during slavery times. Proposing to advance African American society through education and politics, these mixed children of Dr. William Hume exercised their influence on South Carolina African American society to the best of their ability. Being born as a Free Person of Color in South Carolina still had imposed racial limitations and a stringent set of rules when it came to movement within the state, as well as beyond state lines, and also limitations imposed on formal education.
From 1900 to 1920, Jim Crow below the Mason-Dixon line was a ruthless part of Southern culture and existence. This reassertion of white supremacy, after the Civil War, was primarily the main reason for the Great Migration. The Reconstruction Period had been a dismal failure, and not everyone had the ability to leave the Deep South. Beaufort County was a place where African Americans suffered deeply under the restraints of Jim Crow, institutionalized racism, and segregation as well. Beaufort County was also 82.8% black during the Civil War, which was not unusual for this densely populated rice growing county of the South. By 1900, South Carolina’s African American population in Beaufort County was 90.5%.
Slavery Distribution Chart – 1861 U.S. Census, Department of Interior
The Negro Population – by Walter Wilcox, population chart, pg. 23, “Negroes in the United States“
Battiste was born in Grahamville, Beaufort County, South Carolina, on Dec. 2, 1891, according to his mausoleum plaque and extrapolation from from other sources. Some sources state that his his year of birth was earlier, and some place it slightly later. The importance of his year of birth in particular has to do with the idea that Hume, and a good deal of his family, survived the Sea Island Hurricane, which took the lives of over 2,000 African Americans in Lowcountry South Carolina in August of 1893. Surviving the growing tide of Jim Crow racism would be another matter all together. The lynching of Frazier B. Baker and his two-year old daughter, Julia Baker, set the tone of the resentment against educated African Americans remaining in the post Civil War Deep South.
Hume grew up on the grounds of the ‘South Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical Institute’, with his mother, “Mattie”, his aunt Anna Maria Hume Miller (Mattie’s older sister), his uncle by marriage, Thomas Ezekiel Miller, and his grandmother, Julia L. Macbeth, along with his cousins. Today, this mechanical institute is known as South Carolina State University, but back in 1900 it was simply called the “State Colored School”. As the companion school of Claflin University, Hume grew up watching African American men play football, basketball, and baseball, and run track at Claflin. Watching them play competitively, in a team oriented environment, had a tremendous impact on how young Hume viewed the world around him.
His uncle, Miller, was so light skinned in his complexion, that the press often referred to him as “Canary Bird Miller“. Being President of the college, and a top tier educator of one of the first historically black colleges and universities, Miller stressed the importance on education his children, as well as on his nephew, Hume. Growing up, immersed in this educational environment, gave Hume the edge when it came to school work. Uncle Thomas was Hume’s most important father figure, as Hume’s own father, John Battiste died when Hume was very young, leaving Martha a young widow at a very early age.
Claflin University Football Team -1899
Hume Le Prince Battiste -U.S. Census 1900 ‘screenshot’, living at the “State Colored School”
Thomas Ezekiel Miller
Thomas E. Miller – with the Masonry Class – 1896-1898 -Bradham Hall, South Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical Institute.
Hume Le Prince Battiste – age twelve – photo by William Augustus Reckling (1850-1913) – Reckling & Sons Photographers – courtesy of the Battiste Family Collection.
This photograph of Hume Le Prince Battiste at the age of twelve, taken by William August Reckling, says a lot about the financial status of Hume’s black family. Reckling was a extremely well known photography, who documented the Reconstruction era in South Carolina.
Hume had contracted almost every known childhood disease before the age of twelve. By the age of thirteen, Battiste had gone completely deaf, caused by a case of Scarlet Fever. The law of separate but equal existed in South Carolina in 1904, but schools for hearing impaired Africa American children didn’t exist. In seeking the best education that could provide Hume with the best opportunities in life, — that only a school for the hearing impaired could offer, — Battiste and his mother moved to Philadelphia to live among ‘The Souls Of Black Folk’ in Philadelphia’s famous ‘7th Ward’.
Their small dwelling, located at 506 South Ninth Street, between Lombard and South Street, was described as a “Middle Class” neighborhood. Some of America’s most notable African American ball players came out of the 7th Ward. Octavius Catto being one of them. Battiste’s first experience with Philadelphia would be spending a portion of his youth growing up in Pythian Base Ball Club territory. Catto too, was also a South Carolinian, upper-middle-class, Free Person of Color’ transplant to Philadelphia’s 7th Ward, whose former 7th Ward residence was located near the corner of Eighth Street and South Street. just a block from Battiste’s new 7th Ward trappings.
W.E.B. Du Bois lived in the 7th Ward at 700 Lombard Street.
Hume’s early introduction to city living may have been Orangeburg, Charleston or Columbia, had he remained in the South; but living in Philadelphia would have been a much different experience, as well as an extremely refreshing cosmopolitan exposure to social integration, compared to the legalized racial restrictions he had experienced in South Carolina. Quakers, Irish, Welsh, Dutch, Swedes, were just a few new cultures that Hume would be exposed to, and influenced by. It would also living North of the Mason Dixon line during a period when the Philadelphia Giants reigned supreme as ‘thee baseball team’ for people of color. And although segregation still chose the areas where one resided, the daily interactions between white people and black people were far more open and far less restrictive, especially for children.
Map of a portion of the “7th Ward” – “The Philadelphia Negro“, by W.E.B. Du Bois.
“The History And Life Of Octavius V. Catto, And Trial Of Frank Kelly”, compiled by Henry H Griffin, pg.6
The connection between Philadelphia and cities in the South, particularly cities in South Carolina, reached back long before the Civil War began. While “Mattie” worked as a seamstress and teacher in a 7th Ward school, Hume was accept and placed in the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb boarding school, also known as the “Mt. Airy School“.
Hume L. Battiste – school records – ‘Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb‘
Hume’s high school records mentioned nothing about his participation in sports while attending Mt. Airy, but he had to learn them somewhere, based on his ability in track, football, basketball, and baseball. He was a favorite student of A.C. Manning, one of the many teachers at the Mt. Airy campus. Manning took such a special interest in Battiste, that he wrote young Hume a stellar letter of recommendation, that helped him get into Gallaudet College. Hume was the victim of intense bullying at Mt. Airy. Some of it based on his intelligence; some of it based on his athletic skills. Most of it based on his dark complexion. So much so, that this is where the beginning of the total reinvention of Hume Le Prince Battiste life as a Native American began.
Letter of recommendation for Hume Le Prince Battiste from A.C. Manning to Edward Miner Gallaudet -1908, courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives.
One of Hume’s other relatives connected by marriage, DuBose Heyward, through his Uncle, Thomas E. Miller, — once wrote a play in the 1930’s called “Brass Ankles“. This pejorative term was used mainly in South Carolina for many mixed raced people, derived from European and African relationships with the people of the Catawba Nation of early South Carolina. Escaped African slaves or African American Free People of Color, and people European heritage, along with the Catawba, made up this tri-racial isolate indigenous to early America .
Heyward was the descendant of Judge Thomas Heyward, Jr., a South Carolinian signer of the United States Declaration of Independence, just as Hume was the descendant of John Hume, who was the aide to General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox”. This tri-racial isolate gene pool ran through both the Hume and Heyward families.
Written is 1931, Heyward’s play showed the deep emotional impact behind the racial rules of the present day Jim Crow of the 1930’s, and what two-hundred and forty-six years of “amalgamation” had accomplished as a previous practice that preceded Jim Crow’s socially outlawed miscegenation between the races. Vilified by Jim Crow, amalgamation was a very huge part of the making of United States, before the Civil War. The Code Noir was malleable within a certain extent; both flexible and inflexible, depending on one’s political and financial status. The Black Codes instituted at the conclusion of the Civil War were unforgiving and brutal. “Brass Ankles“, as a play, was truly ahead of its time and poignantly brutal; but the play also served as a Heywood familial confession of sorts; — another ‘open secret‘ kept by the Heyward family, that has been proven to be accurate, and confirmed by the work of historians Eric Foner and Stephen Middleton, when it comes to the matrilineal lineage of Thomas E. Miller.
The discussion about whether Hume Le Prince Battiste was actually an African American or a Native American, is one that has been tossed back and forth for the last three decades. Surface genealogy had declared Battiste to be a Native American, and rightfully so, based on what information was available at the time the Native American heritage claim was made in the early 20th century. Certain societal values had been included, to keep the legacy of the ‘first Native American to attend Gallaudet University’ intact; or so Edward Miner, president of Gallaudet College, had professed this stellar, progressive achievement far and wide, in the early 1900’s.
Allowing a person of indigenous ancestry to attend Gallaudet was a huge undertaking. Hampton or the Carlisle Indian Industrial School would have been the normal route for a Native American pursing a formal education. A plan of action had been devised by Gallaudet University to keep Battiste’s real racial heritage a secret, while at the same time, foster and exploit the concept this concocted Native America identity for Hume to its fullest, so he would be accepted by the entire student body of Gallaudet — without question. It was a bold plan, and there was a tiny grain of truth to Hume’s passing as a Native American.
According to the “Register Of Carolina Huguenot; Partial Listing Of 81 Refugee Families”, Vol. 1, Bacon-Dupont, by Edward Lining Manigualt and Horry Frost Prioleau, page 7, shows the three spouses of Dr. William Hume, including Julia L. Macbeth — who was said to have been “1/4 American Indian”. This would have at best, made Hume 1/16, or 6.25% Native American. When this information is correlated with “Free Blacks and Mulattos in South Carolina 1850 Census”, by Margaret Peckham Motes, we see a Census transcription showing data for Julia L. Macbeth that has her racial designation as “black”. Not “mulatto”; not “Indian”.
The Catawba population in South Carolina was so small during the early 1900’s, that it would have been literally impossible to verify Hume’s Siouan heritage, if it were ever questioned. Some would say yes, while others would claim ignorance. But the truth would never lead back to his black or white families. One would have to go backwards, three generations from the time of Hume’s grandmother’s birth, to see where his Native American ancestry began.
“Register Of Carolina Huguenot; Partial Listing Of 81 Refugee Families” – pg.7
“Free Blacks and Mulattos in South Carolina 1850 Census“.
In 1909, Battiste entered Gallaudet College, which is now known as Gallaudet University, a bright-eyed freshman, whose main goal was to letter in as many sports as he could. He wasn’t the sure footed Bison pitcher he’d come to be during his first year. Playing mostly First Base and Second Base, and sometimes shortstop, Hume traded off Bison pitching duties with Vernon”Cotton” Birck.
The Washington Herald – March 14, 1909
Left to Right: Battiste, Unknown, Vernon “Cotton” Birck – Gallaudet Bisons Baseall 1912
The deception all began, and all not so innocently, — by promoting the idea in the 1909 East Coast sporting newspapers, that this up and coming Bison athlete, Hume Le Prince Battiste, was a “full blooded Indian”. This of course was a fallacy. A totally created fictional narrative, repeated over and over again, year after year, backed up with many high praising superlatives and stereotypical phrases of the day, — used to describe Native Americans in the world of sports.
“Chief Battiste“, “Scalper Battiste“, “Tom Long Boat“, “Injun“, “Redskin” etc. ran in the sporting section every other day, until the idea the Hume was actually a full-blood Sioux Indian from “Pennsylvania” was embedded in the minds of everyone around him. They never once mentioned that he was born and raised South of the Mason Dixon line in the Deep South. That the Prince’s middle name stood out on its own. That wasn’t their concern. The newspapers created an illusion, which in turn produced a phenomena that could not be fully disputed until recent times. And to this day, there are those who still believe Hume Le Prince Battiste is a Native American.
Evening Star– April 04, 1909
Gallaudet College Catalogue, 1909-1910
1911 Track – Seated Left to Right: Henry S. Morris, Homer E. Grace, Grover C. Farquar, Hume Le Prince Battiste. Standing Left to Right: Iva M. Robinson, Harry Gardener, J. Wilbur Gledhill. – courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives.
1911 Football – courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives.
1912-1913 Fives – courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives
The Washington Evening Star and the Washington Herald, ran story after story on the phenomenal exploits of this athlete, who some felt was comparable to the likes of Jim Thorpe. Stationed as the Bison’s Left End, or playing Quarterback, Hume was known for his speed and agility on the field, and his ‘broken field’ running. As a Center on the Buff and Blue basketball team, he led the team to many wins. As a track star, he was amazingly fast, who ran the 220, 440, and 880 with ease and grace.
Hume was team Captain of almost every sport he was involved in, for every year he attended Gallaudet. Between 1909 and 1913, Hume’s athletic exploits were a major part of the Gallaudet’s campus newsletter, the Buff And Blue. Where the concept of Hume being the ‘publicly well known Native American athlete‘ attending the predominately ‘all-white’ Bison campus in the ‘Age of Jim Thorpe’, — was all the rage. The idea being, – build the image and illusion of racial acceptance with continuity, then publish it as plausible truth above all else.
Buff and Blue – Vol. 19, No. 3, Dec. 1910 – pg. 120
The Washington Herald – October 17, 1909
The Washington Herald – October 24, 1909, photo by National Press Association
The Washington Herald -April 17, 1910 Gallaudet Baseaball Team, photo by National Press Association
The Washington Herald – October 23, 1910, photo by National Press Association
Washington Times – Gallaudet’s Speedy Quartet- Times, May 05, 1912
Washington Evening Star – February 12, 1911
Washington Evening Star – Oct. 29, 1911
Honolulu Star Bulletin – October 03, 1912 (noting Jim Thorpe and Hume L. Battiste)
The Official National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Guide – 1911, pg. 160
In 1912, Walter “The Big Train” Johnson was sent by the “Old Fox“, Clark Griffith, to scout Hume as a possible recruit for the Washington Senators. Griffith had been interested in Battiste for quite some time. So he sent his best pitcher to judge of pitching delivery of Battiste, to see if this young man brought the heat and benders.
The Washington Herald – March 08, 1912
The Evening Star – March 28, 1912
For the most part, “Old Fox” Griffith liked his pitchers to dominate the batters box and plate with their height and weight. In the year 1913, Walter Johnson was 6′-1″ and 200 lbs. Bob Groom was 6′-2″ and 175 lbs. Joe Boehling was 5′-11″ and 168 lbs, and Joe Engel was 6′-1″ and 183 lbs. These are the examples Hume would have to live up to. Hume always had a very slight build, whose frame was built for speed; 5′-10″ and 150lbs soaking wet. And he had a hard time maintaining that weight because he had a very high metabolism. It was no secret that he ate like a horse. His height was out of proportion to the weight required to impress the “Old Fox” with his pitching skills.
Johnson was known as a “power pitcher”. Everything about his frame spoke of power.
The Washington Herald – March 07, 1913
Battiste pushed his own narrative about being a Native American, and left it to be judged in the court of public opinion.
The Washington Herald – March 09, 1913
This leaves one pondering Griffith’s intentions when it came to Battiste as a prospect. What was it that he saw in Battiste, when he already had Joe Engel from Mount St. Mary’s College? Engel, like Battiste, was a four-sport all around athlete. What was the “Old Fox” up to in 1913?
The answer comes into clearer focus when you place Roberto Estalella into Griffith’s ‘breaking the color line’ equation in 1935. Griffith was way ahead of his time, but the majority of players and fans had yet to reach this level of racial acceptance with the National Pastime in 1913. Griffith began planting the seeds of baseball integration, along with others within the sport, knowing one day they would fully bloom. All great changes begin with an idea.
The Washington Herald – May 11, 1913
In 1938, in an interview with the Washington Tribune, Griffith was quoted as saying:
“There are few big-league magnates who are not aware of the fact that the time is not far off when colored players will take their places beside those of other races in the major leagues. However, I’m not sure that time has arrived yet. . . . A lone Negro in the game will face caustic comments. He will be made the target of cruel, filthy epithets. Of course, I know the time will come when the ice will have to be broken. Both by the organized game and by the colored player who is willing to volunteer and thus become a sort of martyr to the cause.”
The Buff and Blue – Vol. 21, No. 6 – Mar. 1913 – pg. 230
Hume got into a bit of trouble at Gallaudet. Girl trouble. For some reason, this did not sit well with board of Regents or the President of Gallaudet. Some say he was expelled. Others say he left of his own accord. Racism probably played a large role in Hume’s departure. Percival Hall of course was not E.M. Gallaudet by any standard. The reason for his leaving in March of 1913 is still unclear, but his desire to turn professional for the Washington Senators, if at all possible, was rock solid . His weight was still a obstacle.
The Washington Herald – May 21, 1913
The “Old Fox” offered to “place” Hume with any “Class B league“. There is power in that statement. The fact that Clark Griffith liked what he saw, and knew he could place Hume with a Class B team, meant calling in favors, or people who the “Old Fox” knew would have no problem Hume’s complexion. Still, there was a sense the Griffith could see what Hume really was. Dark skinned. Educated. Light of Frame. Problematic. Ahead of his time, as well as talented. In other words; too much trouble for the Big Show, for both the Washington Senators and the fans.
Hume regarded Griffith’s sage wisdom about playing a year in a Class B league as a wise decision and good advice. Yet, between trying to complete his education at Gallaudet through correspondence, and work at National Carbonics, Hume had little time for baseball, other than playing for the McIntyres in Cleveland on the sandlots. Battiste finally received his degree in Oct. of 1913. He never returned to Gallaudet to graduate with his class.
The Washington Herald – July 16, 1913.
Before Battiste left Ohio, he left his baseball mark on the Cleveland sandlots, and Cleveland Athletic Club, as one of their top 220 yard dash, 440 yard dash, 880 yard dash, 220 hurdles, and Broad Jump athletes. This was the same track club that trained Jesse Owens to become an Olympic athlete and gold medal champion.
Sporting Life – March 21, 1914
The Silent Worker – Vol. 34, No. 9, June 1922
Walter “Judge” McCredie owned the Portland Colts, of the Northwestern League, as well as the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League. Of course in 1914, the Colts were a Class B League team, and considered “professional”, and the Beavers, in 1914, were a Class AA League team. “Judge” McCredie consider the Colts his personal farm league, and why not? In 1914, the “Judge” made plans to integrate the PCL. This drew the ire of J. Cal Ewing and Allan T. Baum, and the majority of the PCL management and players. In reality, what McCredie actually did, was sort of a shell and pea game. It wasn’t until Dec. of 1914, that Lang Akana was recruited by McCredie to play on the Beavers, while no one really noticed that he had hired and African American, and slipped Hume into the line-up to play with the Colts.
The Oregon Daily Journal – March 31, 1914
The Sunday Oregonian – December 27, 1914
Hume had a much darker complexion than Lang Akana. This was just plain fact. Possessing a dark complexion was the main complaint about Akana, when it came to being received on the Beavers roster by his future teammates. Yet, the Hume did not receive the same berating insults that Akana did, because he was thought to be Native American. McCredie had no problem with his teams playing against African American teams. Because they were a big ticket draw, McCredie had a long standing agreement with the Chicago American Giants whenever they barnstormed the West Coast.
As far as I know, Hume pitched three games against the Chicago American Giants, while they toured through California and Oregon in 1914. One of those games he won. He lost two. He played a total of five games for the Portland Colts in the Northwestern League, under the management of Nick Williams before Battiste was released.
Morning Oregonian– March 28, 1914
Morning Oregonian – April 02, 1914
The Sunday Oregonian – April 12, 1914
Morning Oregonian – April 13, 1914
How many of the Chicago American Giants were barnstorming through Oregon in 1914, that once played for the Philadelphia Giants? Who Hume grew up watching or reading about them in the newspapers, — while growing up in the 7th Ward in Philadelphia, and wanting to be just like them, — only to get a chance to play against some of his childhood heroes?
Pete Hill? Bruce Pettaway? Pete Booker? Rube Foster? John Henry “Pop” Lloyd? Bill Francis? Bill Monroe? The same Chicago American Giants team that played against the Pacific Coast League’s Portland Beavers in a four game series in 1914.
Its probably the stuff dreams are made from. To win a game against them.
The most memorable moment for the Chicago American Giants, where Battiste was concerned, was a Bill Monroe practical joke moment. They probably had no idea that this kid pitching against them was a ‘7th Ward” Philadelphia kid from their early careers in baseball.
Morning Oregonian – March 24, 1915
Playing five games for the Portland Colts of the Northwestern League in 1914 and seven games for the Spokane Indians of the Pacific Coast International League in 1918, — for a total of twelve games played in Class B professional baseball. And although Hume survived the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, during the end of World War I, the Pacific Coast International League did not survive.
The Oregon Daily Journal – May 05, 1918
Spokane Daily Chronicle – May 10, 1918
This also gives us a real glimpse at the people who also played a part in this early integration of baseball. Like Walter Johnson, Clark Griffith, Walter McCredie, and Nick Williams. It gives a different perspective on these men who were mentioned more than once when it came to African Americans, and the profession of baseball where the color line was drawn. They all played significant and instrumental roles in Battiste having the opportunity to pitch in Class B professional baseball; and this explains, in part, the depths of their interactions and associations with African American ball players throughout their entire careers.
As far as I know, Hume Le Prince Battiste is the only African American; 1) who successfully passed as a Native American during his professional baseball career; 2) pitched against an African American team (Chicago American Giants) before the Negro Leagues were organized by Rube Foster; 3) won against an African American team while playing on an all-white team (Portland Colts); 4) possessed unmistakable athletic comparisons to Jackie Robinson 5) was the first African American to letter in collegiate track and field, baseball, basketball, and football while being chosen Captain of these teams.
Battiste broke the professional baseball color line before Jimmy Claxton and Jackie Robinson.
He also chased baseball, football, basketball and track for many years after he played for the Spokane Indians, playing for industrial league teams, like the Goodyear Silents/Mutes. The story of Hume Le Prince Battise living as a Native American has remained intact for over 50 years, far after he passed away in Pico Rivera, California, in 1968. His African American heritage was first call into question and asserted in 1983, in the book “Black and Deaf in America, Are We that Different”, by Ernest Hairston and Linwood Smith. As of the 1940 U.S. Census, Hume Le Prince Battiste went from “Black”, to “Indian”/Catawba, to “White”, never looking back.
The truth was, he was all three,… in a manner of speaking.
Hume Le Prince Battiste – U.S. Census 1930
Hume Le Prince Battiste – U.S. Census 1940
Even though it has been challenged more than once, the idea of him being anything other than “Chief Battiste the Native American” has been argued back and forth. And the topic of Hume being an African American has faded in and out for over half a century — and never really explored, in depth, from all sides of his family’s lineage. Hume’s heritage is still disputed till this very day. So much more happened for Hume after he was released from the Portland Colts, where he pursued many other professional endeavors. “Bats” achieved his scholarly pursuits, and was a chemist and scientist, who created a vulcanization process that kept him flush his entire life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and namesake, Dr. William Hume.
Unlike the Hume family of old, “Bats” led a simple life as a self employed gas station owner. The story of Hume Le Prince Battiste’s rice family legacy has not been told until this moment, as far as I am aware of. Luckily, his story also includes baseball, and his story of breaking the color line into professional baseball will endure the test of time.