“Democracy appears in athletic contests long before it makes its appearance in other areas of American life.” So said Indianapolis columnist Andrew Ramsey. When the team from Crispus Attucks High School won the state basketball championship in 1955, it was the first time in the nation that a team from an all-black school took a state title. Crispus Attucks High School, named for a runaway slave who became a hero of the American Revolution, opened in Indianapolis in 1927.
In the early days, the school was excluded from participation in statewide competition. Nonetheless, by the 1950s, the Attucks Tigers, led by coach Ray Crowe and star player Oscar Robertson, became a force to contend with. Attucks dominated the all-black Roosevelt High School in 1955 to win the state championship. The change wrought by the Tigers’ win was irreversible. Subsequent state titles in ’56 and ’59 prompted other schools to recruit black players, a trend which, in combination with several court orders, helped integrate Indianapolis schools. Crispus Attucks admitted its first white student only in 1971, and operated as a high school until 1986, when it was converted to a junior high. The building now also houses the Crispus Attucks Museum.
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