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    James Naismith Autograph Letter. Four integral pages, 5.25" x 8.5", [France], May 12 [circa 1918], to his wife after visiting some black American troops in France during the First World War. It is evident from this letter that Naismith, the inventor of the game of basketball, was ahead of his time with regards to civil rights: "I am having some wonderful experiences. I have been among our colored soldiers and think that a very great work could be done among them it is a wonderful opportunity as you can get a bunch of them together as you never could at home. And they are very appreciative. Most of them are real Southern and many of them have not had an opportunity to get an education and in some camps they are taught by classes as part of their duties. I only wish I could do more for them, but we are just making a beginning."

    He goes on to describe a scene where they were allowed to view a motion picture and their reaction to it. "A picture was thrown on the movie screen and it was a contest between a schemer and a poor young man for the hand of an heiress and the way the soldiers expressed themselves was just great. They wanted to warn the young girl of what kind of a man the villain was...when the master got ready to marry the heiress to the crook the boys could not help calling out 'hold on dere'...The human heart in a black or white skin wants to see right prevail over either might or deceit. I could not help rejoicing over that exhibition."

    James Naismith (1861-1939) was the University of Kansas' assistant basketball coach and, later, athletic director from 1898 until his death in 1939. With only the slightest hint of irony, the inventor of the game is the only losing basketball coach in Jayhawks' history with a record of 55-60. With original transmittal letter. Smoothed folds with light staining at the lower right edge.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2012
    4th-5th Thursday-Friday
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