MassMu to Exhibit Paul Brown and Racial Integration in Ohio Football

News Release:  MassMu to Exhibit Paul Brown and Racial Integration in Ohio Football

The Massillon Museum’s Paul Brown and Racial Integration in Ohio Football exhibition will celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the 1946 reintegration of the National Football League. During his first year with the Browns, Paul Brown and Los Angeles Rams coach Adam Walsh made professional football history when each signed two black players.  The Browns at that time were part of the All-American Football Conference, and the rams had been part of the NFL franchise.

The exhibition will open on Saturday, January 30, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.  The public is invited to the free event; no reservations are necessary.

An unofficial National Football League rule banning African Americans from the league was enforced from 1933 until 1946.  Coach Paul Brown was instrumental in overcoming football segregation by his continual effort to integrate teams at the naval academy, high school, college, and professional levels. 

Paul Brown moved to Massillon, Ohio, at age nine with his family. He graduated from high school there and returned to coach the Massillon Tigers to unprecedented success between 1932 and 1940. His Massillon integration efforts followed the lead of Betsey Mix Cowles, who began working to integrate Massillon schools as early as 1849.  A second-year teacher at Massillon's Union School, she resigned when Ohio’s "black laws" were not overturned in a case against the Massillon school.  

In a progressive and comparatively tolerant town, the 1891 squad--believed to be the earliest Massillon High School football team--was integrated, as photographically documented, under trainer Walter Emery.  Those attitudes likely had a positive humanitarian impact on Paul Brown, forming the basis for his approach:  he evaluated players based on talent alone, not on race. 

“Paul Brown and Racial Integration in Ohio Football examines how Brown's racially progressive hometown influenced him, how his racial tolerance helped shape his compassion, and how his humanitarian legacy continued through players and coaches during and beyond his tenure,” said Massillon Museum Curator Heather Haden.

Specific African American players who will be highlighted in the exhibition include Marion Motley, Bill Willis, Horace Gillom, Homer Floyd, and Emerson Cole.

The new Paul Brown exhibition is the fourth in a multiple-year series focusing on one of Massillon’s most famous and influential sons.  It is hosted in the Massillon Tiger Football Gallery in Memory of Paul L. David on the Massillon Museum’s second floor.  The Massillon Museum is proud to partner with the Pro Football Hall of Fame for this exhibit to present Hall of Fame photographs and artifacts representing Bill Willis and Marion Motley.  

Visitors to the second-floor galleries will be able to view Fashion Outlaws, It’s Been Awhile, and The Immel Circus.  Also opening on January 30 are the main gallery exhibition, Celebration in Art, and the Studio M show, Paintings by Melissa Markwald.    

The Paul Brown and Racial Integration in Ohio Football exhibition may be seen during regular Museum hours—Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.—through July 31, 2016.  A visit to the Massillon Museum is always free.

The Massillon Museum receives operating support from the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsinStark.

The Massillon Museum is located at 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon. Free parking is available on adjacent streets and in nearby city lots.  For more information, call 330.833.4061 or visit

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