Labour Day weekend is always a busy one in Regina. And while the Riders putrid performance so far in 2015 has taken some of the sheen off the traditional Labour Day Classic against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, there is an opportunity to revisit more pleasant times through this event on Saturday Sept. 5 that’s being presented by the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum.
The focus is on football players of African American heritage who came up to Saskatchewan to play football for the Riders, and despite dealing with various levels of culture shock and racial tension, ended up putting down roots and staying in the city.
Similar to Jackie Robinson in major league baseball, the colour barrier in professional football was broken in the mid-1940s. Lineman Herb Trawick is regarded as the first African American player to suit up in the CFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes in 1946, and played his entire 12-year career with the team.
Although there is supposed to be a team photo that shows a rail porter named Robert “Stonewall” Jackson who may have played for Regina Roughriders in 1930. Aside from him, running back/kicker Gabe Patterson was the first Saskatchewan Roughrider of African American descent. He played in 1947-48, and was named an all-star both seasons. Still, for decades after that, African American players remained relatively rare in Riderville.
One of the iconic names in Rider history is a feature guest at this SACHM event. That would be fullback George Reed (pictured), who was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and played for the team from 1963-75. With both his play on the field, and wonderful community spirit off the field, Reed has made a massive contribution to Regina and Saskatchewan since he moved here following his college career at Washington State University.
They Played & Stayed includes a symposium on Saturday at Orr Centre (4400 4th Ave.) from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Reed will be joined by his wife Angie, their daughter Georgette, along with Matt Dominguez and other Rider alumni. At 6 p.m. at Evraz Place there will be a banquet with guest-speaker CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge.
You can find out more information on the SACHM website.