The New York Pioneer Club
Today, running clubs and running associations exist all over the world for the most diverse groups of runners. It's all about cohesion and the joy of doing sports together. But in times of discrimination, that was not a given.
Let's take a trip back in time to the 1930s:
In the U.S., segregation and discrimination based on skin color and race was commonplace and pervasive. In Europe, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini came to power, whose Nazi policies, as is well known, led to global conflicts, including World War II. And in Russia, Stalin launched the so-called Stalin Purge, which sentenced politically "unreliable" and oppositional individuals to death.
During this period, more precisely in 1936, the New York Pioneer Club (NYPC) was founded in Harlem, NY. The club was created by three athletes who, in the sense of the politics of the time, belonged to second-class people and only because of the color of their skin: Joseph Yancey, Bob Douglas and William Culbreath.
The Pioneer Club was something special: for black and Jewish boys and men, a place of retreat where they could play sports together. In addition, the association was also a reaction to the racist and anti-Semitic policies of the athletic clubs already established in New York. As one of the founding members, Coach Yancey believed that the young men from Harlem - a very underprivileged part of New York City at the time - could rise above poverty and prejudice through athletics, discipline, pride in their appearance, and camaraderie. But it was a long, hard road.
The members of the New York Pioneer Club were very ambitious athletes, as reflected especially in the results lists of all the running events of the time. No matter if 100m distance or marathon, many races were won, which helped the club to nationwide fame. And this in spite of racism.
The Pioneer Club was a club that united people of all nationalities and abilities. The NYPC made civil rights history in Harlem and the Bronx during a time of segregation. And without the Pioneer Club, the New York Road Runners would never have existed. This was founded in 1958 with 47 members. NYRR currently has more than 60,000 members. The legacy of New York's first running club is all but forgotten today, but in those difficult times, it was a clear sign of equality and cohesion. And even today, it can remind us that sports unite people, no matter what their origin or skin color.
Image source: www.harlemworldmagazine.com