Born in 1897, Effa Manley was an American baseball executive who co-owned the Newark Eagles of the Negro leagues National League alongside her husband, Abe Manley. She was also the first woman to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Often we know the important facts about historical people or at least the key to their prominence. But we don’t usually talk about who these historical figures were before they became well known.
Although both of Effa Manley’s parents were white, she was raised by her white mother and black stepfather alongside her biracial half-siblings and lived in a neighborhood that had a black majority. Some people in the neighborhood identified Effa as white while others thought she was black. While some saw this as a disadvantage, she used it to her benefit. For example, when it came to job opportunities, she referred to herself as white.
After high school, Manley moved to New York where her fight for civil rights and her love of baseball began. She could always be seen at Yankee Stadium watching Babe Ruth play. She also started to put her focus and energy into social organizations and causes. Her first marriage ended in divorce, but in 1932 Effa met her second husband at a World Series game. His name was Abraham Manley. Abe already had established his footing in the baseball community, and together they formed a partnership and co-owned the Eagles Negro League baseball team. Effa Manley’s job with the team was to schedule their travel games, handle contracts, buy equipment, and meet payroll. People started to recognize her because of how good she was at promoting the team. Whether it was on or off the field, she was always helping her players with jobs, family, and transportation for games among other things. She took care of many responsibilities in her role as the Negro National League treasurer. Under Manley’s ownership, the Newark Eagles won the 1946 Negro National League World Series.
Because Manley was an activist, she used Eagles games to promote her other civic causes. For example, she put together a boycott when Harlem stores refused to hire black people. After six weeks passed, store owners finally agreed to hire Blacks to work in their stores, and now years later, more than 300 stores on 125th Street employ black people. Not only was Effa Manley the treasurer for the Negro National Baseball League, but she was also the treasurer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She and her team set an example for everyone that black people deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
Everywhere she went, Manley always kept the best interests of black people in mind. In fact, for many years people assumed she was black because of how invested she was in the Black community. Undeniably, Effa Manley helped change the face of baseball, during the golden age of the Negro Leagues. As a result, Effa was the first, and remains the only, woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
By Ariana Miguel
“Effa Manley.” National Baseball Hall of Fame, baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/manley-effa.html. Accessed 22 September 2020.
“Effa Manley, Queen of the Negro Leagues.” African American Registry, aaregistry.org/story/ effa-manley-queen-of-the-negro-leagues.html. Accessed 22 September 2020.