Saturday, February 16, 2019

John L. Jones, born a free Negro, used his house and office as stops on the Underground Railroad through Chicago.

John L. Jones, apprentice tailor, writer, and politician was born in 1817 in Green City, North Carolina to a German father and an Negro mother. Born a free man, he taught himself to read and write. Jones started his own tailoring business and eventually became one of the wealthiest Negroes in the ante-bellum United States.
John L. Jones
After moving to Chicago in 1845, Jones used his house and his office, both located on Dearborn Street, as stops on the Underground Railroad through Chicago.  His home was known as a meeting place for local and national abolitionist leaders including Frederick Douglass and John Brown. He also authored a number of influential anti-slavery pamphlets.

Although a dedicated abolitionist, John Jones also actively campaigned against racial discrimination as expressed in the Black Laws of Illinois. These laws denied voting rights to black men and banned them from testifying in court. Jones dedicated a considerable amount of his wealth to the effort to overturn these measures.

His efforts were successful in 1865 when the Illinois Legislature repealed the Black Laws restricting civil rights.  Five years later, in 1870, after ratification of the 15th Amendment, Jones and other Illinois black men also voted for the first time.  In 1871, in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire, Jones was elected to the Cook County Commission on the Union Fire Proof ticket, becoming the first African American officeholder in the state’s history.  While holding this post, he helped enact the law that abolished (local) segregated schools.

Reelected to a full three-year term in 1872, Jones was defeated in his 1875 reelection bid. John Jones died on May 31,1879, and was buried at Graceland Cemetery in Cook County, Illinois.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

The story of "Free Frank" McWorter who paid for his own freedom from slavery, found his family and freed them too.

"Free Frank" McWorter, Illinois' most successful Negro pioneer, could have accomplished little without the support of an influential Pike County political figure. Frank McWorter planned his freedom for many years. As a slave, he saved money, purchased his wife’s freedom, and then negotiated his own from a Kentucky planter in 1819 at age forty-two.
Solomon McWorter, son of Free Frank
(Civil War Era Photo)
Soon after he purchased his oldest son Solomon. In 1830 McWorter migrated with free family members to the Illinois frontier near the Mississippi River, where he established a farm and the community of New Philadelphia. Over his lifetime he was able to purchase his remaining thirteen family members.

Free Frank turned his 160 acres of Illinois farmland into a cash operation by transporting his produce to the Mississippi River for sale. With the purchase of additional acreage he established the first known town platted by a Negro, naming it New Philadelphia. Although the town prospered for decades, New Philadelphia later declined. Over time he sold lots to both whites and Negroes. Before the Civil War, New Philadelphia had become one of the stations along the Underground Railroad for shepherding escaped slaves to Canada.

McWorter died before the Civil War having never experienced the benefits of citizenship that came with the Fourteenth Amendment. Though living in the free state of Illinois, the family was never entirely safe from slave catchers (the reverse underground railroad capturing freed slaves and selling them back into slavery) who moved along the Mississippi River before the Civil War. McWorter could not protect himself from white claim-jumpers because the black laws prohibited the testimony of a Negro in a court case involving a white man. Only with the aid of powerful white friends could "Free Frank" retain his property.

The McWorters remained in the community of New Philadelphia for generations as farmers and artisans.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Free Negroes in Illinois Prior to the Civil War, 1818-1860

The idealistic perception of the United States being the world's lone great republic permeated the conscience of the fledgling country. The concept rested upon factors of egalitarianism and the homogeneity of the population. Such principles were sorely tried in the acid test of creating a workable federal constitution, particularly in the case of state representation in the new Congress with regard to the Negro. The resulting compromise settled on the three-fifths clause and an agreement to prohibit alteration of the foreign slave trade for twenty years. More astute observers’ like that great advocate of republican ideals, Thomas Jefferson, realized the ideological inconsistencies of the arrangement, noting that questions involving the peculiarity of slavery and the Negro would eventually resurface. Territorial expansion and the debates over the admission of new states with or without a provision for bondage in their constitutions guaranteed the continuation of the threat to the republican ideal.

A far greater disruptive challenge to the egalitarian aspect of republicanism, however, was posed by the presence of the free Negro. While equality did not imply a leveling of the society, it did include the concepts of social and economic mobility. The fortunes of every free man could either rise or fall according to his ability. At this precise point, however, racial prejudice intervened to block the continuity of theory and practice.

Physically different, Negroes could not easily blend into the prescribed homogeneous society. Slavery provided a practical, but hardly a perfect solution to this dilemma. As long as slaves were regarded as chattel property—the right to hold property being guaranteed by the Constitution itself—they posed no threat to the perception of the United States as a land of social and economic equality.

The free Negro presented an entirely different set of circumstances. He was not property; he was not an equal citizen. Republican ideology made no provision for such an anomaly. The resolution of this problem turned on the replacement of the concept of equality with that of freedom. If "equality" is subject to interpretation, "freedom" is an even more nebulous concept. Although the abstraction of freedom often implies equality, in reality, freedom exists in varying degrees. Such a perception enabled a dual system to emerge that attempted to reconcile the differences between theoretical republicanism and its actual practice. On the theoretical level, all free male persons were equal regardless of color. Hence, the cherished republican ideal was preserved. Considering the racial views of the day, the second level involved the more practical use of a racial caste system which, if severely applied, rendered free Negroes to the position of virtual bondage. These two ideologically contradictory planes were separated by silence. Any attempt to pull them together and closely examine their inconsistencies could prove most disturbing indeed.

Scrutiny, however, proved unavoidable when dealing with the organization of new territories. The national government, in its only noteworthy accomplishment under the Articles of Confederation, created the Northwest Territory by the Ordinance of 1787. This document prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude in the area that included the future state of Illinois. By a strict construction of the anti-slavery provision, all Negroes in the territory were free with the temporary exception of those employed at the salt works near Shawneetown on the Ohio River. This freedom was merely nominal, for not only did slavery exist in the Northwest Territory, hut a group of laws was also enacted to reinforce the racial caste system regarding free Negroes. Although vestiges of "bondage remained, once the area had been declared free, the issue could "scarcely he termed slavery." Rather, it had to "he approached as the negro question."

The question of the free Negro and its implications regarding the republican ideology can not be attributed to a large concentration of blacks in Illinois. The original French settlers had brought Negro slaves to Illinois in the mid-eighteenth century to work lead mines in the region along the Mississippi River in northwestern Illinois. Kaskaskia and other French towns also included populations of Negro slaves. After their defeat in the French and Indian War in 1763, many French slaveholders fled to Canada taking their human property with them. The victorious English continued the system of involuntary servitude and expanded the practice when saline springs were discovered in southeastern Illinois. After the American Revolution and Illinois statehood in 1818, small numbers of free Negroes were to be found in all three of these areas which became the counties of Jo Daviess, Randolph, St. Clair, and Gallatin. Significantly, all of these counties bordered rivers. Gallatin was "bounded by the Ohio River and the other three lay along the Mississippi River.

These nascent black populations were augmented by immigration from the South which generally flowed from south to north. Free Negroes were concentrated in the river counties along the Mississippi, the Ohio, and the Wabash Rivers. In 1820, 42% of Illinois free Negroes lived in the southern river counties of St. Clair, Randolph, and Gallatin.
Over half of Illinois' 1840 free Negro population lived in these three counties, and a sizeable proportion of the state's free blacks remained in the southern river region in the ante-bellum[1]  era. This number declined to approximately a third in 1850 and 1860.

A majority of blacks, however, remained in the general area of southern Illinois. As settlement advanced toward the interior of the state, free Negroes formed a part of the inland migration. The south central counties of Morgan and Sangamon showed substantial increases in their black populations after 1840.
Their gains, though, could not compare with the spectacular figures registered in Cook County which contained the town of Chicago. The 1860 federal census recorded over a thousand free persons of color in this northeastern county. Knox County, containing Galesburg, and Jo Daviess County, with the Mississippi River port of Galena, were the only other northern areas to record significant counts of free Negroes. For the two decades prior to 1860. Even though the number of blacks in these three northern counties rose from 5% to 18% of the aggregate Illinois colored population, at no time did the northern total approach that of the lower half of the state.

Throughout Illinois, free Negroes tended to gravitate toward more populated areas. A variety of factors influenced this phenomenon including the 2 principle of finding safety in numbers. In addition, free blacks, just as all elements which do not fit into the traditional social order, tended to become concentrated in cities." A comparison of towns and counties in 1860, further illustrates this point. Chicago, Jacksonville, and Galena all had over 85% of their counties' black populations. Over a half of Sangamon County's free Negroes lived in Springfield and over 45% of Gallatin County blacks resided in Shawneetown. This principle operated even within some cities themselves. In Chicago, for example, 82% of the colored population in 1850 lived in the second ward and 72% were concentrated in two wards ten years later. The emergence of separate communities within the towns further reinforced the belief in the incapacity of free Negroes to blend into a homogeneous republican society.

Although the number of Illinois free colored persons increased for most of the forty years after statehood, Negroes hardly threatened to overrun the state. While the free Negro population rose by over a half from 1820 to 1850, in relation to the entire population, their proportion dropped from 4.99% in 1810 to less than one percent (>1%) in 1850. The actual number of free Negroes could hardly account for the consternation which their residence engendered among the white inhabitants. As in the older states, the presence of several free black communities gave rise to questions of social and economic equality. Such queries led to an examination of the moral and practical dualism with the resulting outcome depending to a large extent, upon the various backgrounds of the white settlers.

Spanning over four hundred miles from the Wisconsin border in the north to Cairo on its southern tip, Illinois attracted pioneers from two distinct sections of the United States. Except for Galena with its economic ties to St. Louis, immigrants from the North, especially New England, populated the far northern reaches of the state. The middle portion of Illinois remained sparsely inhabited throughout the ante-bellum period and thus acted as a buffer between the Yankee northerners and the decidedly southern orientation of the pioneers in the lower part of the state. Settlers from the Upper South states of Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and Kentucky predominated In southern Illinois.

Although transplanted on the western frontier, northern and southern pioneers retained much of their original sectional identities. This was especially evident in the different republican traditions that each group brought to Illinois. Hard work, social mobility, economic improvement, and opportunity for social advancement characterized the northern view of classical republicanism. While these factors were also present in the South, they were overshadowed by a certain deference to a ruling elite.

Economics played a crucial role in the differences between sectional perceptions of the republican ideology. The grain agriculture of the North facilitated freeholding and free labor. Thus, in the post-Revolutionary period, slave labor gradually disappeared. In addition, emancipation was indiscriminate j that is, bondsmen were often released without any skills to offer in a competitive free market economy. Together with prevailing racial prejudices, the resulting lack of employment spelled economic deprivation for free Negroes and ideological catastrophe for whites. Since northern freemen could find little or no work, they were perceived as lazy and a dangerous threat to the ideal republican work ethic, if not the entire republican way of life. A definite post-Revolutionary reaction existed which cast suspicion on all people who did not meet their individual republican responsibilities. Thus, the belief developed that free Negroes undermined republican virtues and corrupted the entire society. Such evil contaminants necessitated separation, segregation, and eventual exportation as a matter of the republic's survival.

In contrast to the North, slavery remained entrenched in the Upper South. First tobacco and then cotton required cheap and plentiful labor, thus ensuring the survival of the peculiar institution. In this economic milieu, freeholding and free labor suffered. Many of the Upper South’s small farmers migrated to free territory in Illinois to escape the debilitating economic effects of slavery. In addition, the presence of an enslaved class tended to cause a stratification of southern society. Men of means tended to either hold slaves or to have indirectly profited by slave labor. This southern elite formed the educated and politically powerful ruling class in the South. Men of lesser standing deferred to the wealthier class in matters of social and civic importance, including the problem of the free Negro.

Whereas bondsmen were, for the most part, indiscriminately emancipated in the North, free Negroes existed together with slavery in the Upper South. These freemen too found work difficult to obtain which in turn led to white pronouncements of laziness and moral degradation. However, free blacks also created a fear among southerners that was much stronger and more immediate in nature than among northerners. The principle of egalitarianism supported by historical facts dictated that enslaved peoples would eventually rise up in "bloody revolt against their oppressors. Free Negroes were viewed as the dreaded agents and agitators of such a revolt and thus became the hated pariah harbingers of an impending calamity. Whereas northerners envisioned an eventual threat to republican ideology, southerners feared for their very lives. Hence, the racial caste system had to be rigidly enforced in the hope of forestalling racial conflagration. While men from the Upper South shared the republican values of northerners, these values were tempered by the influence of slavery.

The two differing sectional views concerning the free Negro and republicanism were transplanted into Illinois. In general, Illinoisans regarded black freemen as an inferior and hopelessly degraded class. Beneath this common perception, however, lay an important and critical difference. Northerners objected to free Negroes on theoretical and abstract grounds; southern Illinoisans regarded the presence of free blacks as a direct threat to their lives and property, indeed, to the entire social order. Neither the relatively minute free Negro population nor the termination of slavery in the 1840s mitigated these attitudes. Governor Edward Coles, the state's second chief executive, and an anti-slavery advocate, noted in 1824 that this point was particularly evident in the Illinois "black laws. He observed that the laws were "a mere transcript of those of the southern states." While Coles understood the need for this legislation given the large population of Negroes in the South, he declared that Illinois had no need for such restrictions on free blacks. Years later, Governor Thomas Ford, in his classic history of Illinois, suggested that the proportion of free Negroes living in the state had little to do with the restrictions imposed upon them. Just as there were obsolete hemp and tobacco regulations in the statute books even though neither of these southern crops was grown in Illinois; also the southern black codes were transferred northward (Illinois Black Code). The situation may have changed, but the racial attitudes did not.

Since Illinois was primarily settled by men from the Upper South, and the lower half of the state was settled first and contained most of the black population, the southern viewpoint greatly influenced the manner in which "black freemen were treated during the territorial and early statehood years. Although slavery was prohibited by the Northwest Ordinance, this stricture did little to diminish slaveholders' attempts to introduce the peculiar institution into the territory north of the Ohio River. Their efforts proved at least partially fruitful, for slaves already in the Illinois Territory were permitted to remain, while others could be brought in for specific periods of time. Not surprisingly, in conjunction with the southern fears of slave insurrections, free Negroes were prohibited from entering the territory by a law enacted in 1813. An entire code of restrictive laws existed before statehood in 1818. Clearly, free Negroes were unwanted and quite probably sorely abused. In a letter dated July 13, 1818, Abraham Gamp, a black farmer living near the Wabash River, complained of the dualism exhibited by whites. He declared his loyalty to the high republican principles of the United States, but regretted that the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence did not apply to free persons of color. The only solution, he felt, was to immigrate to Liberia. This solution, of course, enabled whites to preserve their republican ideals by simply exporting volunteering free blacks who could not mesh into the ideal homogeneous republican model. Ultimately unsuccessful, colonization would be strongly advanced during the ante-bellum years.

In the meantime, Illinois citizens were grappling with the framing of a constitution to accompany their application for admission to the Union as the twenty-first state. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1818 recognized that they were in a delicate position. The Ordinance of 1787 had laid the ground rules for statehood and prohibition of the peculiar institution was clearly specified. The convention reached a compromise that would be acceptable to anti-slavery men, yet preserve the inviolable protection against the black menace. The finished product of the convention's labors contained Article VI which was more notable for what it left unsaid than for its expressed contents. Slavery and involuntary servitude were prohibited, but nothing was said about voluntary service or indentures. Even more ominous was the constitutional silence on the status of free Negroes. Article XII reserved the vote for "white male inhabitants' only. Although most of the Constitution of 1818 gave the appearance of conforming to egalitarian republican ideals, Articles VI and XII demonstrated the delegates' real intentions. Only the "gullible" and "optimistic" regarded the anti-slavery article as a sincere effort to resolve the problem. To Illinoisans of southern descent, the collapse of an entire system of social order was hardly the goal of the framers of the Constitution of 1818.

A year after Illinois' admission to the Union, the reason for the constitution's vagueness on the free Negro question became apparent. The General Assembly adopted a group of restrictive laws remarkably similar to, though not as harsh as, those pertaining to Negroes in the South. These black laws curtailed many of the freedoms associated with a republican society. Slaves, of course, lived under a code which limited movement, assembly, and various recreational and excitable activities such as dancing. The title of the original black law passed on March 30, 1819, revealed much about the status of free blacks in Illinois: "An Act Respecting Free Negroes, Mulattoes, Servants, and Slaves." The only common denominator in these four groups was race; free Negroes were equated with slaves. In future years, succeeding measures elaborated upon the 1819 black law, further curtailing the liberties of free colored persons. Free Negroes could not sue for their liberty in Illinois courts they could not serve on juries they could act as witnesses against white menj and their right to hold property was severely restricted by custom. Of course, that ultimate iconoclast of social order and republican virtue, racial intermarriage, was strictly forbidden. In addition, the vast majority of Illinois schools remained open to white children only throughout the ante-bellum period. Thus, free Negroes could neither fulfill their individual republican responsibilities nor were they offered any possibility of doing so in the future.

In the four decades between statehood and the Civil War, the Illinois black laws, surviving repeal attempts and court challenges, became even more restrictive. Black immigration in particular invited legislative improvements. In 1819, for example, only a certificate of freedom and good behavior were needed to gain entrance to the state. Ten years later, a one thousand dollar bond had to be given as a guarantee against becoming a public charge in addition to the freedom certificate. While the states chronic need for money may have been a motivating factor in the size of the bond, the main objective was to exclude free Negroes from the state altogether without specifically saying so. The great majority of black immigrants, whether freemen or fugitive slaves, simply ignored this law. Few men, regardless of color, possessed one thousand dollars in a state where land at any price was considered expensive. The ineffectiveness of the measure was further demonstrated two years later when an unsuccessful proposal was debated in the legislature which aimed to eliminate black immigration altogether. Even attempts to return runaway slaves and indentured servants met with failure as the number of repeated advertisements for the delinquents’ return indicated. As the free Negro population increased, the severity of the black laws rose accordingly as if by calculation. Indeed, the entire "plan" seemed "to have been intended to drive free Negroes into voluntary indenture." As a result, black freemen would be in actual practice what they already were in the statute books, the equivalent of chattel slave property. Instead of peddling in human flesh, the contracts of indentured servants were bought and sold by the Illinois equivalent of slaveholders. In this way, the disquieting un-republican presence of Illinois' free Negroes could be eliminated without offending northern ideological standards or southern demands for real protection of the social order. Therefore, Illinoisans from all sections of the state approved of the "black laws "because the measures offered something for all white citizens. As Governor Ford reminded his readers, "when we consider the importance, for the purposes of harmony and good government, of preserving a homogeneous character amongst the people," the separation of the races was indeed a "wise" objective.

Free "blacks suffered greatly under the black laws. Those freemen who had dreams of freedom in a paternalistic setting or a southern society without slavery, were quickly disillusioned. If no white person had a pecuniary interest in him, the black freeman was left to his own resources which were meager indeed. For the more observant bondsmen, emancipation in Illinois could be a dreaded fate as shown by Edward Coles' newly freed slaves’ frightful remonstrance for protection in 1819.

Whether because of racial prejudice, lack of skills, or lack of money, black freemen remained a dependent class in ante-bellum Illinois. The few exceptional free blacks who triumphed over all adversity still required the approval and support of the dominant caste. For example, George Washington, a free Negro from Otter Creek, was educated and left an endowment by his former master. Although "independently" wealthy, Washington needed the support of friendly white neighbors to protect himself from unscrupulous and hostile tormentors.

Solomon McWorter,
son of Free Frank
(Civil War Era Photo)
"Free Frank" McWorter, Illinois' most successful Negro pioneer, could have accomplished little without the support of an influential Pike County political figure. Frank McWorter planned his freedom for many years. As a slave, he saved money, purchased his wife’s freedom, and then negotiated his own from a Kentucky planter in 1819 at age forty-two. Soon after he purchased his oldest son, Solomon. In 1830 McWorter migrated with free family members to the Illinois frontier near the Mississippi River, where he established a farm and the community of New Philadelphia. Over his lifetime he was able to purchase his remaining thirteen family members.

Free Frank turned his 160 acres of Illinois farmland into a cash operation by transporting his produce to the Mississippi River for sale. With the purchase of additional acreage he established the first known town platted by a Negro, naming it New Philadelphia. Although the town prospered for decades, New Philadelphia later declined. Over time he sold lots to both whites and Negroes.

McWorter died before the Civil War having never experienced the benefits of citizenship that came with the Fourteenth Amendment. Though living in the free state of Illinois, the family was never entirely safe from slave catchers (the reverse underground railroad capturing freed slaves and selling them back into slavery) who moved along the Mississippi River before the Civil War. McWorter could not protect himself from white claim-jumpers because the black laws prohibited the testimony of a Negro in a court case involving a white man. Only with the aid of powerful white friends could "Free Frank" retain his property. The McWorters remained in the community of New Philadelphia for generations as farmers and artisans.

If life was trying for relatively prosperous black farmers like George Washington and Frank McWorter, the existence of the poor rural free Negro hung in a precarious balance between freedom and bondage. Often ignored and isolated, rural black freemen provided easy targets for unscrupulous kidnappers. These pirates of human booty prowled the countryside along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in the vicinities of Shawneetown and Illinoistown (now East St. Louis), both of which contained substantial black populations. This odious practice was loudly condemned by public officials, but in the first years after statehood, the legislature's actions on the problem were confined to the issuance of platitudes encouraging stricter enforcement of the laws. The black laws, however, actually encouraged kidnapping by preventing black victims from pressing charges against white men in Illinois courts. Moreover, the freedom certificates could be "misplaced" or destroyed with ease, thus making free blacks subject to the fugitive slave laws. The few rural free Negroes fortunate enough to find employment often found themselves the objects of conflict and acrimonious court battles between their employers and suspicious whites.

The towns offered some protection from sudden re-enslavement, but economic and social life remained severely proscribed. Although the unemployment rates in 1850 and 1860 for blacks in northern Illinois counties were less than those in the southern regions, the overall economic picture was one of poverty. J Urban and rural free Negroes seldom held the titles to the lands on which they lived and claimed little or no personal property. Work, when it was obtained, consisted of manual labor, service occupations, and the menial tasks which became associated with the term "traditional" Negro careers.
William de Fleurville: "Billy The Barber"
Like rural free blacks, a few notable examples of extraordinary accomplishment existed in the urban setting. William de Fleurville, a mulatto immigrant from the West Indies, owned and operated a barber shop in Springfield. He eventually emerged as the spokesman for the black community and became the acknowledged liaison with the city's influential whites. Among "Billy the Barber's" clients were lawyers like Abraham Lincoln, who provided legal advice in exchange for barbering services.

Fleurville accumulated a substantial fortune, but it was clear that he depended upon his reputation as a "good" Negro in order to maintain his somewhat lofty stature. Without white patronage his shop would certainly have failed and his standing in the eyes of whites would have unquestionably been diminished. In addition, none of his land holdings could have been legalized without the aid of white lawyers like Lincoln, who represented Fleurville in court proceedings.

John L. Jones
John L. Jones of Chicago, like Fleurville, presented a remarkable success story that was tempered by the lack of republican rights and equality. A tailor in a town of substantial abolitionist tendencies, Jones became the leader of Chicago's Negro community. Jones used his house and his office, both located on Dearborn Street, as stops on the Underground Railroad through Chicago.

His home was known as a meeting place for local and national abolitionist leaders including Frederick Douglass and John Brown. He also authored a number of influential anti-slavery pamphlets. 

In the 1850's, he represented Illinois blacks at a colored convention held in Cleveland, Ohio, and was chosen by Negro delegates to be the chairman of the black convention held in Alton in 1856, where he launched a campaign to abolish the black laws. In spite of his considerable accomplishments, Jones, too, depended upon the sufferance and patronage of whites. His tactics, which would have brought swift reprisals in virtually any other town in the state, were perfectly suited for a tolerant northern city like Chicago. In addition, his business could never have survived without white patronage.

In both rural and urban settings, therefore, classical republican values were denied in free Negroes. First, there was the glaring black unemployment problem. Although it was due to forces beyond the control of black freemen, the lack of gainful work was accepted as conclusive proof of anti-republican subversion in terms of laziness, immorality, and a total abrogation of individual responsibility. Such people became burdens to the republic and dependent upon public support. In order to combat this drain on tax money which could be better spent on items beneficial to the society at large, bonds were required to guard against the introduction of slovenly Negroes into the state. Significantly, in virtually every measure enacted to curtail or prohibit immigration into Illinois, a clause was included which specified that proceeds from bonds or fines were to be used to defray the counties' costs in supporting their charges.

Secondly, not only were poor black freemen not independent, but the more economically advanced Negroes still exhibited a marked degree of dependency upon the dominant white caste. Their very survival and livelihood were inextricably linked to the paternal tolerance and patronage of white friends and sympathizers. No matter how much money they earned, how unimpeachable a reputation they achieved, or how educated they became, free Negroes could never achieve the virtuous standing of independent, valuable contributors to the maintenance of the glorious ideal of the American republic.

Third, free Negroes in Illinois violated the sacred rule dictating that a true republican society had to possess a homogeneous and egalitarian nature. Not only were free blacks racially different, but they tended to draw apart from the mainstream of society and, where their numbers could support them, to create their own institutions. This trend was particularly evident in urban areas, where separate black churches, schools, and fraternal organizations emerged. This self-segregation was a means of self-preservation, but suspicious whites viewed the phenomenon as a conspiracy to undermine republican homogeneity and the harmony of the social order.

To this complex picture, Illinoisans applied the dualism of republican theory and frontier practicality. The most accepted solution to the free Negro problem was obviously physical exclusion from the state. Republican ideology offered no guidelines on how this end could be achieved. It was at this precise point that the sectional variations of republicanism in the North and the Upper South came into play. Men from northern Illinois held that Negroes could enter Illinois, but they would not encourage free blacks to do so, and expected them to eventually depart for friendlier areas. Segregation and mild versions of the black laws would be sufficient to ensure this goal. Residents of southern Illinois did not have such patience. Free Negroes presented a critical danger that could not wait for an eventual hoped-for emigration. An immediate cessation to free black immigration was the first step; a complete elimination of that degraded population was the final goal. For a time, the two sections agreed upon the practical methods of controlling Illinois' free colored population. The ideological republican plane remained separated from the reality of mild black laws. A chasm of silence allowed the inconsistency "between theoretical freedom and the actual proscribed liberty of free Negroes to remain unchallenged.

The delicate silence was shattered by black freemen themselves. The black laws had no appreciable effect on their presence in the state. Stories circulated about slave insurrections, especially after the Nat Turner nightmare in 1831. States surrounding Illinois were enacting laws to prohibit the immigration of free blacks into their territories, while Illinois, sharing two long accessible borders with the slave states of Kentucky and Missouri, had no such laws. As an ever increasing number of free Negroes settled in the lower half of the state, the white residents of southern Illinois grew restless. They found it necessary to enact ever more stringent measures that smacked of the vestiges of slavery so anathema to the ideological sensibilities of northern Illinoisans. Each of these attempts acted to pull the planes of ideology and practicality together and thereby force the exposure of their inherent differences.

The first of these attempts occurred in the early 1820s in the form of a blatant attempt by influential southern Illinois politicians, never totally reconciled to the Constitution of 1818, to reinstate slavery. By circuitous means, this group manipulated the composition of the General Assembly to acquire a majority that called for a convention to draft a pro-slavery constitution. A year later, in 1825, the convention proposal was presented for the voters' approval. The anti-slavery forces assailed the plan as a sinister attempt to violate the fundamental principles under which Illinois had been admitted to the Union in 1818. Northern newcomers had no intention of seeing Illinois become a slave state whether or not such a situation meant a large influx of free Negroes. Even some southerners found the convention proposal ideologically unpalatable. The cheapening effect of the peculiar institution on free labor and freeholding was one of the reasons they had migrated northward, and they had no desire to endure a repeat performance of that deplorable condition. Free Negroes presented a danger, but slavery created more problems than it solved. Although men of northern origin comprised a minority of the voters, the convention proposal was decisively rejected.

The second major exposure of the planes involved the colonization of free Negroes in Africa or the West Indies. The resettlement schemes of the American Colonization Society appealed strongly to the homogeneous facet of republican ideology. Furthermore, colonization contained the attractive feature of appearing to be voluntary. Gentle, not violent, persuasion was the dominant technique. Free Negroes were advised to settle in Liberia for their own good and for the benefits of civilization that they would transplant on the "Dark Continent."

Colonization, however, had three distinct drawbacks. First, many free Negroes had no intention of leaving their American homeland for unknown wilds. It was far better to suffer oppression in a familiar land than to perish in oblivion. This black intransigence infuriated many whites, including some abolitionists, who assumed that newly freed bondsmen would gratefully leave the country in search of a country more compatible to their race. In addition to the colored people's lack of enthusiasm, the effectiveness of the colonization schemes also suffered from a lack of money and coordination. Hence free Negroes who "volunteered" to be resettled because they were "doing no good," found it difficult to leave the country. The end product of the colonizationists’ labors led to the uncomfortable conclusion that although resettlement presented an ideologically acceptable means of achieving republican homogeneity, only optimistic visionaries could believe that it offered any practical solution to the free Negro problem.

Secondly, and probably more significantly, the colonization solution became the victim of a growing tendency, especially among northerners, to perceive the slavery problem in a moral light. Although in a minority, vocal abolitionists accused colonization advocates of actually assisting slaveholders by removing a dreaded source of anti-slavery agitation. Ironically, colonization was condemned as anti-republican because it assisted in the perpetuation of the immoral peculiar institution, thereby offending the valued principles of free labor, hard work, and personal independence.

Finally, the resettlement schemes committed the fatal transgression of bridging the gulf between theoretical republicanism and social practicality. By its very nature, colonization focused attention on the free Negro dilemma. In other words, how could men oppose slavery on the one hand and be even more hostile to the results of emancipation on the other? In an amoral context, this question raised serious doubts about social and ideological consistencies; in combination with the searing light of moral scrutiny, colonization, like the failed pro-slavery convention proposal of 1825, totally offended the principles of a virtuous republic. Unable to withstand the illuminating force of the convergence of ideological and practical planes, colonization died an ignominious death of discredited impracticality.

Since neither colonization nor the reinstitution of slavery offered a viable solution to the free Negro problem without offending the dualistic “modus vivendi,” worried southern Illinoisans promoted the enactment of an effective "black anti-immigration law. In the 1847 Constitutional Convention, they saw the chance to make their proposals a reality, and seized the initiative. On June 24, 1847, Benjamin Bond from Clinton County proposed an article that prohibited free Negroes from immigrating to the state and banned slaveholders from releasing their bondsmen in the state. A compromise proposal was subsequently offered which required the first session of the General Assembly to pass an "effectual" anti-immigration law, Horrified delegates from northern counties objected to the proposal as a violation of the federal Constitution's guarantee of rights and privileges in all of the states. The proponents of Article XIV countered that since the voting age was regulated by each individual state, Illinois had a perfect right to govern its own territory as it saw fit. The northerners asked if Article XIV was really necessary, in view of the small numbers of free Negroes in the state, and suggested that the proposal's harshness was reminiscent of that anti -republican horror, slavery. Southern delegates shot back with the fact that "green" northerners could afford to hold such ideological scruples since they did not have to endure the offensive presence of lazy, superannuated, wicked, and "good for nothing" Negroes. After tempers had cooled, proponents of Article XIV gathered their forces and won approval despite warnings that the citizens of northern counties would never approve it.

More astute delegates and cynical observers, however, realized that Article XIV represented only a minor victory. The proposal's advocates had won the battle but not the war and their spoils included a Pandora’s Box. The convention had merely shoved the responsibility for finding a solution to the free Negro problem onto the legislature where an infinite maze of special interests could delay its solution. The first session of the General Assembly under the Constitution of 1848 promptly confirmed the cynics' worst predictions. Even though an overwhelming majority of Illinois citizens approved of Article XIV, the lawmakers were quite timid. They tended to split along geographical lines, with the central counties holding the balance. A Negro anti-immigration bill was narrowly defeated in 1849. Not until 1853, by the use of surprise tactics, was the legislature able to pass an ant i -immigration act. The law raised a storm of protest and its comparison with the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 could hardly go unnoticed. The Anti-Immigration Act provided that any Negro who remained in the state for more than ten days was subject to arrest, advertisement as a fugitive, and, remaining unclaimed, was to be sold at public auction for a maximum of one year's labor. In effect, a system of forced labor was created. In addition, the infamous 1850 Fugitive Slave Act forced free Negroes from the state, not by gentle persuasion, but by fear of sudden re-enslavement. Such extreme measures and the atrocities that would inevitably ensue caused the chasm separating the planes of ideology and reality to close. A virtuous republic could not permit people, no matter what their color, to be snatched off its streets and thrown into chains. These laws merely extended the peculiar institution northward and therefore cheapened and even threatened the republican values of personal independence and free labor. Although both of the state's major political parties, the Democrats and the Whigs, gave grudging approval to the Fugitive Slave Act as a necessary part of the Compromise of 1850, many people were not so generous. Ministers, who had previously remained silent on the Negro issue, and even free blacks themselves joined anti-slavery men in vilifying the 1850 and 1853 acts. While the Chicago city council called for an outright disregard of the Fugitive Slave Act by the local police force, the law's effectiveness, like that of the Anti-Immigration Act, was probably limited. By so greatly countering republican ideology, it supplied the arsenal of protest and agitation rather than actually providing a solution to the black problem.

Failing all else, the men of the frontier resorted to violence to solve their immediate Negro problem. A white mob in Cairo, and later in Mound City, attempted to drive free Negroes out of their towns. Even though such action spread to nearby towns, census figures indicate that most of the black community remained. In addition to being a practical failure, violence completely ignored republican values. Free Negroes were, after all, "free" to leave the state, but the exercise of such freedom must be an exercise of republican voluntarism and not autocratic coercion.

All of Illinois' attempts to deal with the free Negro dilemma ended in failure because they offended the dualism that governed the social order. Every civilized society has a code of idealistic principles and a means of putting them into practice. In ante-bellum Illinois, the execution of those principles with regard to the free Negro was colored by sectional differences in the interpretation of republican ideals. The people of the state generally agreed that the presence of black freemen was undesirable, but disagreed on the methods required to achieve the desired restoration of the classical republican characteristics of personal independence, egalitarianism, economic mobility, hard work, and a homogeneous society—factors that were alien to free Negroes in the eyes of whites. The many solutions to the disparity between republican theory and practice failed in ante-bellum Illinois and, in many ways, the gap remains with us still.

By Steven J. Savery
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


[1] Ante-bellum: occurring or existing before the Civil War. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Orestes "Minnie" Miñoso became the first Black Chicago White Sox player on May 1, 1951, known as "Mr. White Sox."

Orestes "Minnie" Miñoso (born Saturnino Orestes Armas Miñoso Arrieta, November 29, 1925), in El Perico, Cuba, a town near Havana. nicknamed "The Cuban Comet" and "Mr. White Sox", was a Cuban Negro league and Major League Baseball (MLB) player. Arrieta was his mother's maiden name, while his father's name was Carlos Lopez. Both labored in the sugar-cane fields outside of the big city. Minnie had two sisters and two half-brothers.

Minnie did not like school. During his preteen years he quit to work in the cane fields and play ball. When his employer, the Lonja plantation, failed to field a youth team, Minnie organized one himself, finding players and equipment and managing the club. He demanded that his charges learn the signs, and fined them 50 centavos when they missed one. This kind of pride and determination — combined with an ability to get along with everyone — would aid Minnie immeasurably during all phases of his baseball life.

Minnie's sandlot career got its start near his home in El Perico, where his older half-brother Francisco Miñoso was already well known. Everyone called the younger boy Miñoso, and he did not correct them. The nickname "Minnie" came after he reached the United States — in Cuba, he was always Orestes.

Around the age of 14, Minnie saw Martin Dihigo play, and he tried to model himself after the multitalented superstar. Minnie was a cagey opposite-field hitter whose bat was still quick enough to turn on an inside pitch and send it screaming over the left fielder's head. Every at-bat became a game of cat and mouse.

Like his hero Dihigo, Miñoso played every position at one time or another as a teenager, but was primarily a catcher. One day, he got whacked on a batter's follow-through. His mother, who was watching from the stands, ordered him to find a new position. He switched to pitcher, and twirled a no-hitter at the age of 18 against a junior all-star team from Central Espana. The victory was bittersweet for Miñoso, as his mother had died a month earlier.

Miñoso wandered around Cuba playing ball and doing odd jobs, using the house of a wealthy family friend, Juan Llins, as a home base. After his 20th birthday, he approached Rene Midesten, who ran the Ambrosia Candy team in Havana. Midesten asked Miñoso what position he played. The youngster was in the middle of explaining how he could pitch and catch when he eyed the team's third baseman, who seemed to be having a tough time in the field. He quickly added third base to his résumé.

Midesten liked what he saw and hired Miñoso for $2 a game for the 1943 season, plus $8 a week working in the company garage. In his first at-bat for the team, he hit a pinch triple to win a game. He earned regular action after that, and finished with a .364 batting average. Miñoso moved up the semipro ladder and took a job as a cigar roller and third baseman with Partagas.

Toward the end of 1945, Miñoso made it to the big time — a $150-a-month contract with Havana's Marianao club, one of the top winter-league outfits in the Caribbean. His manager, Armando Marsáns, was so impressed that he quickly gave him a raise to $200 to keep him from moving on to greener pastures. Miñoso hit .300 that season and was honored as Rookie of the Year.
1945 Marianao Team Photo, "Pride of Havana" with Minnie Minoso.
In 1946 Miñoso signed a $300-a-month deal to play for the New York Cubans of the Negro National League. Alex Pompez, the team's owner, had been tipped off and sent Alex Carrasquel to Cuba to sign him before someone else snapped him up.
Minnie Minoso, 1946 New York Cubans.
There was a glut of talent in pro baseball at this time with the major leaguers returning from World War II as well as the Negro Leagues and Latino baseball. The Mexican League, vying to become a second major league, enticed players of all colors to jump their contracts and play south of the border. Pompez sensed that Miñoso would be a target.

Indeed, Miñoso was offered $15,000 by the Mexican League, but honored his Cubans deal and remained in the United States. Besides, rumors were rampant that Mexican Leaguers might be banned from US baseball. That, plus the fact that the Brooklyn Dodgers had signed Jackie Robinson, encouraged players like Miñoso to stay in the States.

Miñoso played third base for a Cubans team that also featured catcher Ray Noble and pitcher Luis Tiant Sr. He appeared in 33 official games and finished 1946 with a .260 average in league play. In 1947, Miñoso became the NNL's most effective leadoff hitter, batting .294 and helping the Cubans win the pennant. He was also the East's starting third baseman in the All-Star Game. In the World Series, the Cubans beat the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro American League.

The man who "discovered" Miñoso for American white baseball was Abe Saperstein, of Harlem Globetrotters fame. Saperstein had a keen eye for talent, and he had good contacts through his basketball players — several of whom suited up for Negro League teams to pick up extra cash. Saperstein and old-time scout Bill Killefer took a trip to New York to check out hurler Jose Santiago of the Cubans. They were there on behalf of Cleveland owner Bill Veeck, who had already signed Larry Doby and made him the AL's first Black player.

Saperstein and Killefer found Santiago in his hotel, but all the pitcher could do was rave about his roommate, Minnie Miñoso. Miñoso had already been to a tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals, who had not offered him a contract. After watching him in action, Saperstein recommended that the Indians sign both players, and they soon did.
1947 Baseball Card
Orestes Minoso - Cleveland Indians
Miñoso arrived in Dayton of the Central League for the final two weeks of the 1948 season, and racked up nine extra-base hits in 11 games and batted a sizzling .525.

Miñoso broke camp with the Indians in 1949, making his major-league debut on April 19. But he was hardly used, and batted under .200 in limited action. He was sent to San Diego (Pacific Coast League) for seasoning, as Cleveland stuck with veteran Ken Keltner at the hot corner. Over the next two seasons, Miñoso crushed PCL pitching. He hit .297 with 22 homers in '49, then batted .339 in 1950, with 130 runs, 115 RBIs, and 30 stolen bases in the PCL's extended season.

Miñoso came north with the Indians out of spring training in 1951, although they had no place to play him. Third base now belonged to Al Rosen, while the outfield was being manned by veterans Larry Doby, Dale Mitchell, and Bob Kennedy. Still, Miñoso had proven all he needed to against PCL pitching, so there was no point in keeping him in the minors. He saw some action at first base spelling Luke Easter, but basically spent April on the bench.

On April 30, 1951 Miñoso was traded to the Chicago White Sox in a major three-team trade that saw Gus Zernial and Dave Philley sent by Chicago to Philadelphia, Lou Brissie move from Philadephia to Cleveland, and several other players change addresses.
The Indians obviously had a win-now mentality, and Brissie addressed an immediate need. Also, the Indians had another "Negro outfielder" coming up named Harry Simpson. They felt he had more power potential than Miñoso. Finally, Greenberg had become suspicious of Miñoso's commitment when he showed up several days late for spring training. Instead of simply apologizing, Miñoso tried to sweet-talk the Cleveland brass.
Chicago White Sox Logo from 1949 - 1959.
Miñoso took the field for his new team against the New York Yankees on May 1. For the first time, spectators at Comiskey Park were treated to the sight of a black man wearing a White Sox uniform. They liked what they saw. Miñoso homered in his first at-bat, belting a Vic Raschi pitch 415 feet. The fans even forgave him after a late-inning error at third allowed New York to score the winning runs. Two weeks later, the team went on a 14-game winning streak, and Miñoso was the toast of the town. The fans even gave him his own day later that season, marking the first time the White Sox had ever feted a rookie in this manner.

Miñoso split the rest of the year between left field and third base, becoming a full-timer in the outfield after the White Sox acquired veteran Bob Dillinger from the Pittsburgh Pirates to handle the hot corner. With speedy young Jim Busby hitting .283 and swiping 26 bases, second on the club to Miñoso's league-leading 31, and shortstop Chico Carrasquel adding 14 steals, Chicago made up for the fact that it had only one power threat in its lineup, first baseman Eddie Robinson. The "Go-Go White Sox" were starting to take shape.
Miñoso slashed his way to a .326 average, second in the AL to Ferris Fain's .344. Miñoso's 14 triples were the most in baseball in 1951, and his 112 runs fell just two shy of the league lead. In July, he was selected for the All-Star Game — his first of seven appearances. Gil McDougald edged Miñoso for Rookie of the Year honors, but fans on the South Side would not have traded their Cuban speedster for three McDougalds.

The White Sox, expected to be a .500 club in '51, won eight more games than they lost. Interestingly, at the end of the season, the April trade looked like a win-win-win deal for Cleveland and Chicago. Brissie gave the Indians exactly what they wanted from him, Zernial led the AL in homers and RBIs, and the White Sox had a top-of-the lineup hitter to pair with emerging star Nellie Fox.

Miñoso was a revelation to Chicago fans with his relentless hustle and basestealing ability. Whenever he reached base, the fans in Comiskey Park would chant, "Go! Go! Go!"

One of the many memorable plays he made during that season came against the Detroit Tigers. Miñoso lit out for second on a pitch by Detroit's Bill Wight, which skipped past catcher Joe Ginsberg. Miñoso never broke stride, and as he neared third he saw Ginsberg picking up the ball and rubbing it. Miñoso kept on going, and slid into a pile of three Tigers who had all converged at home plate in a panic — Wight, Ginsberg, and first baseman Walt Dropo. Ginsberg held on to the ball but missed the tag.

Miñoso infuriated enemy pitchers with his ability to "steal first." Crowding the plate, he was an expert at leaning in and getting hit by inside pitches, having learned to rotate away at the moment of impact to lessen the severity of the blow. He was plunked a league-leading 16 times in 1951, and repeated as the hit-by-pitch leader in nine of the next 10 seasons.

The 1952 White Sox continued their rise to respectability, finishing in third place, though with the same 81-73 record. Billy Pierce was beginning to establish himself as the staff ace, and the bullpen performed wonderfully. The one-two punch of Miñoso and Fox helped the club squeeze 600-plus runs out of a .252 team average and just two extra-base hits per game. Miñoso led the league with 22 steals, batted .281, and had the second-highest slugging mark on the White Sox at .424. He also established himself as the team's everyday left fielder. Minnie had a few adventures out there, but his speed made up for some mistakes, and his arm was more than adequate, even in cavernous Comiskey Park.

Though not quite a baseball superstar at this point, Miñoso loved to play the part. He was difficult to miss when he hit the streets of the Windy City. He drove a green Cadillac, wore brilliantly colored silk shirts and wide-brimmed hats, sported an enormous diamond ring, and carried a roll of $100 bills in his shirt. That Caddy made the trip back and forth from Chicago to Havana for many years, with an annual stop in Florida for spring training.

In 1953, at age 28, Miñoso did indeed blossom into one of the AL's best all-around hitters. He batted .313, topped 100 in both runs and RBIs, and helped carried the White Sox offense, with Nellie Fox and center fielder Jim Rivera. Billy Pierce won 18 times and led the league in strikeouts, and the bullpen came through again as Chicago racked up 89 victories. A spring winning streak by the Yankees made a run at the pennant out of the question, but the White Sox seemed to be just one power hitter away from challenging New York and Cleveland for supremacy in the AL.

The team's new slugger turned out to be Miñoso. He crashed 19 home runs and fashioned a .535 slugging average in 1954. In fact, he reached double figures in all three extra-base categories, joining Mickey Mantle and Mickey Vernon as the only batters in the junior circuit to accomplish this feat. Miñoso finished the year with a .320 average and 119 runs scored, and the White Sox rose to 94 wins. However, a record-setting season by the Indians coupled with a hard-luck year for Pierce kept Chicago in third place.
An episode that season in a game against the Yankees illustrates what a novelty Latino players still were in major-league baseball during the mid-1950s. Casey Stengel, always looking for an edge, ordered utility infielder Willie Miranda to curse at Miñoso, hoping to distract him in the batter's box. Miranda assumed a menacing pose, and in a harsh-sounding tone invited him out to dinner after the game. Miñoso played along, shaking his fist at Miranda and replying in an equally menacing tone that he would be delighted. He stepped back into the box and smacked a game-winning triple.

That winter, Miñoso took a break from winter ball after a dispute with Marianao club officials. He had played for the team each offseason since leaving Cuba except 1949-50. These campaigns often involved 70 games or more, and Miñoso probably did not mind the rest, though fans certainly missed him. He was a great favorite of Latino crowds. While he was labeled as "colorful" in the United States, Miñoso was considered fairly serious and businesslike in Cuba. Cuban baseball fans would have preferred him to be more of a hot dog, and probably would have liked him in an Almendares or Habana uniform. Miñoso resumed his winter baseball activities after the 1955 season, finally retiring from Cuban ball in 1961. He led the winter league in batting in 1956-57.

In '55, the White Sox finally added some beef to their lineup in the person of Walt Dropo. Although Dropo did not deliver huge numbers, he anchored a lineup that was good enough to win 91 times and finish just five games out of first place. Marty Marion, who took over from Paul Richards in the dugout toward the end of 1954, was now the full-time skipper. He watched as Pierce returned to form with a sparkling 1.97 ERA, and Dick Donovan — picked up from the Tigers — won 15 games to give Chicago a formidable one-two pitching punch. Miñoso had a solid year, batting .288 with 10 homers and 19 stolen bases.

Chicago's quest for a first-place finish was thwarted again in 1956 by the Yankees and Indians. The White Sox dropped to 85 wins, despite another year of stellar pitching. The team acquired Larry Doby over the winter, hoping he and Dropo would strike fear into the hearts of enemy hurlers. Doby did his part with great clutch hitting, but Dropo struggled most of the season. Minnie chipped in with 21 homers and a team-high .525 slugging average. He tied Harry Simpson, Jim Lemon, and Jackie Jensen for the league lead with 11 triples.

The 1957 White Sox finally looked as though they had solved the Yankees. Under the tutelage of new manager Al Lopez, they won early and often, and stayed atop the standings for much of the first half. Pierce and Donovan led the way with All-Star seasons, while second-year shortstop Luis Aparicio teamed with the veteran two-hole hitter Fox to set the table for Doby, Rivera, Miñoso, and the first-base platoon of Dropo and Earl Torgeson. In the second half, Comiskey fans watched in agony as the team began losing the close games they had won earlier in the year. The Yankees slipped past them into first place and held on to win by four games.

After the season, Miñoso was traded away when the White Sox were offered a deal they hated to make but could not refuse. The Indians packaged Al Smith — a similar player to Miñoso who was five years younger — and Hall of Fame hurler Early Wynn. Chicago utilityman Fred Hatfield was also part of the trade. Though just four years removed from its great '54 season, Cleveland was almost unrecognizable. Bobby Avila was the only regular left from that pennant-winning squad. The team's big slugger was now Rocky Colavito. The club had talent — including young players like Mudcat Grant, Gary Bell, Russ Nixon, Roger Maris, and Gary Geiger — but manager Bobby Bragan couldn't turn his roster into victories, and was fired after 67 games. Unfortunately for the Tribe, one of the youngsters who got away that summer was Maris, traded to the Kansas City A's for Vic Power and Woodie Held.

The Indians improved under new skipper Joe Gordon, and Miñoso turned in his usual fine year. He led Cleveland with 168 hits, 94 runs, and 14 stolen bases, and finished second on the team to Colavito with 24 homers, 80 RBIs, and 25 doubles. The Indians snuck into the first division with a late surge to end up at 77-76.

Miñoso's late-career power was a rarity in those days, but few fans were surprised. Although fleet of foot, he was perceived as being a muscleman for much of his career. He tended to wear a bulky uniform, and pulled his pants down well below his knees. Miñoso also walked like a big man, with his toes pointed outward. Stripped down, however, he was the same wiry 175-pounder who had broken into the big leagues a decade earlier.

The Yankees finally had an offyear in 1959, and it seemed as if Miñoso was in the right place at the right time for the first time. Cleveland looked golden as the summer played out, fighting for first place with Miñoso's old team in Chicago. But the pesky White Sox just would not go away, and they passed Cleveland at the end of July. When the two teams met for a four-game set in late August, the Tribe was swept and never made up the difference, losing the pennant by five games.

On paper, the Indians could have won. Colavito was the AL home-run champion, Held crashed 29 homers, and Miñoso chipped in with 21. Tito Francona, picked up in a winter trade, nearly won the batting title. But the White Sox got the clutch hitting and pitching a pennant-winning club needs and the Indians did not.

After the season, Chicago owner Bill Veeck promised Miñoso a championship ring for being one of the original Go-Go Sox. Taking it a step further, he also traded to get his old friend back. And thus, on Opening Day, Miñoso was wearing his familiar White Sox uniform and he celebrated by hitting a pair of homers. Miñoso had a good year for the defending champions, leading the AL with 184 hits and pacing the club with 105 RBIs. But the Yankees were back on their game and the young pitchers of the Baltimore Orioles had matured, relegating the White Sox to third place with an 87-67 record.

Worse than that, a series of trades — including the one for Miñoso — gutted the White Sox of their best young players. Gone in the Miñoso trade were Norm Cash and Johnny Romano. Earl Battey and Don Mincher were also dealt, for Roy Sievers. Also gone was Johnny Callison, traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for third baseman Gene Freese — who then was sent to the Reds and contributed to Cincinnati's 1961 pennant. No one took it out on Miñoso, who was still a God-like figure to Comiskey fans.

The '61 White Sox spent most of the year chasing the Tigers and Yankees. They finished with 86 wins, in fourth place. Miñoso was his usual productive and durable self, batting .280 in 152 games. His stolen-base total dipped into the single digits, but he still ran the bases aggressively, and there was plenty of pop left in his bat. Enough pop, at least, for St. Louis to roll the dice on him. With Veeck no longer in control of the White Sox, the new owners shopped Miñoso over the winter and the Cardinals, looking for a veteran outfield mate for Curt Flood and Stan Musial, decided to give him a shot. But a broken wrist limited Minnie to just 39 games and a .196 average. His next stop was in Washington, where he served as an outfield reserve for the Senators in 1963. With three power hitters, Don Lock, Jim King, and Chuck Hinton, in the starting lineup, Miñoso mostly saw action when King was benched against tough lefties. This was reflected in his .229 average.

In 1964 Miñoso returned to Chicago for his third stint with the White Sox. He served as a pinch-hitter and sometime first baseman during a thrilling pennant chase between the White Sox, Orioles, and Yankees. Chicago lost the pennant by a single game. Miñoso also logged time with Triple-A Indianapolis that season, batting .264 in 52 games.

The end was near. The wheels were gone, and Miñoso could no longer line good fastballs into the gaps. Though it was time to leave the major leagues, his status in the sport made him a big drawing card throughout the Caribbean. In 1965 he started a second career with Jalisco of the Mexican League. Now almost strictly a first baseman, he batted .360 in his first season, and led the league with 106 runs and 35 doubles.

Miñoso had another big year for Jalisco in 1965, batting .348. Over the next eight seasons he would also suit up for league clubs in Orizara, Puerto Mexico, and Torreon. In 1973, at the age of 48, he played in 120 games and hit .265 with 12 homers and 83 RBIs. After that season, he finally called it quits.

Almost nobody noticed at the time that he had compiled more than 4,000 career hits, one of the very few professional ballplayers to do so. Researcher Scott Simkus wrote, "When you add together Minoso's Major League (1,963), minor league (429), Cuban League (838), Mexican League (715) and Negro League hits (at least 128 documented), he winds up with a career total of 4,073 professional hits." 

Miñoso's retirement lasted until Bill Veeck regained control of the White Sox. In 1976 he hired Miñoso as a coach, then talked him into playing a game as a DH at age 50. Miñoso went hitless against the California Angels in four at-bats. One day later, he singled as a pinch-hitter. He remained with the team as a coach through 1978, and reappeared in a White Sox uniform in 1980, making two official plate appearances to join Nick Altrock as baseball's only five-decade players.

In 1993, at the age of 68, Miñoso signed a contract with the independent St. Paul Saints. He grounded out in his only at-bat for the team. The ball and bat were sent to Cooperstown to mark the moment when pro baseball had its first six-decade player. In 2003 Miñoso was at it again, pinch-hitting for the Saints. He took three pitches for balls, then let a fourth pitch go by and trotted toward the first-base bag, still hoping to "steal first." The umpire would have none of it, calling a strike, Miñoso fouled off the next pitch before letting ball four pass and walking into the history books as a seven-decade pro. His contract, prorated for one game, paid him 32 bucks.
Miñoso was on the Baseball Writers Association of America Hall of Fame ballot for 15 years, then was dropped from the ballot after failing to be elected in the 1999 voting. His best showing was in 1988, when he got votes from 21.1 percent of the voters. He was one of 94 candidates considered by the Committee on African-American Baseball in 2006, but was not enshrined.

The White Sox honored Miñoso, retiring his number 9 in 1983, and erecting a statue of him outside US Cellular Field.

Miñoso died in his parked car in Chicago on March 1, 2015. He had been returning home from a friend's birthday party. The Chicago Tribune reported the cause of death as a tear in his pulmonary artery caused by “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” Though it would appear his age was 89, given a November 29, 1925, birthdate, both his family and the White Sox said he was 90 at the time of his death, based on "Spanish records" the family held. Some reports had him as old as 92. He was survived by his wife of 30 years, Sharon; two sons, Orestes Jr. and Charlie; and two daughters, Marilyn and Cecilia.

President Barack Obama said in a statement released by the White House "For South Siders and Sox fans all across the country, including me, Minnie Miñoso is and will always be ‘Mr. White Sox."

ACHIEVEMENTS
  ♦ All-Star: 1951–1954, 1957, 1959 (2 games), 1960 (2 games)
  ♦ Gold Glove: 1957 (Outfield), 1959 (AL-Outfield), 1960 (AL-Outfield)
  ♦ AL leader in hits (1960)
  ♦ AL leader in doubles (1957)
  ♦ AL leader in triples (1951, 1954, 1956)
  ♦ AL leader in sacrifice flies (1960, 1961)
  ♦ AL leader in stolen bases (1951–1953)
  ♦ AL leader in times on base and total bases (1954)
  ♦ Chicago White Sox All-Century Team (2000)

by Mark Stewart
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D.