Ohio Memory Madness 2015: The Final Four!

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Young civil rights workers relaxing and singing on the Western College Campus in Oxford, Ohio. Via Ohio Memory.

Final Four voting for Ohio Memory Madness 2015 is well underway, and soon we will know which historic Ohio event will be named this year’s champion. The events featured in this year’s competition ranged from the invention of the “marcelled” potato chip to the birth of the first gorilla in captivity to the founding of Wilberforce University. This diversity of Ohio’s history is reflected in these and the other events which were eliminated in earlier rounds of the competition, as well as those that have made it to the Final Four, which we’ll explore today.

The first matchup in this year’s Final Four pits 1964’s Freedom Summer against the 1869 establishment of the Cincinnati Red Stockings (now known simply as the Reds) as the first professional baseball team. In 1964, six hundred young people attended a two-week training program at the Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, before going south to spend the summer registering voters, teaching and establishing community centers for African Americans. Efforts by the Freedom Summer volunteers may not have led to as many voter registrations as had been hoped, but over 3,500 students attended Freedom Schools and the volunteers’ efforts significantly impacted the Civil Rights Movement by bringing national media attention to the persecution of African Americans voters in the American South. On Ohio Memory, this important event is represented by a photograph from the Smith Library of Regional History showing students during their orientation program in Oxford.

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1869 team photo of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Via Ohio Memory.

Nearly 100 years earlier, another city in southwest Ohio made history when Cincinnati established the first professional (i.e. paid) baseball team in the United States. Then known as the Red Stockings, the combined salary for the entire baseball club in 1869 was $11,000. The team was dominant at the time, winning 130 consecutive games in 1869 and early 1870. The Cincinnati Red Stockings paved the way for professional baseball in the United States, helping it become one of the nation’s most beloved sports.

The other matchup in this year’s Final Four is between the Wright Brother’s first flight in 1903 and Ohio author Toni Morrison’s receipt of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1993. You can learn more about the Wright Brother’s historic flight in last week’s blog post, thanks to our friends at Wright State University who contributed the photo to Ohio Memory.

Yearbook photo of Chloe Wofford aka Toni Morrison. Via Ohio Memory.
Yearbook photo of Chloe Wofford aka Toni Morrison. Via Ohio Memory.

Toni Morrison is represented by a photo from her Lorain High School yearbook, courtesy of the Lorain Historical Society. Morrison was born Chloe Wofford, just outside Cleveland, Ohio, in Lorain on February 18, 1931. After graduating with honors from Lorain High School, she attended Howard University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She later earned a master’s degree in English from Cornell University in 1955. Fifteen years later, she published her first novel, The Bluest Eye. Among her other well-known novels include Song of Solomon and Beloved. Her body of work earned her the first Nobel Prize in Literature to ever be awarded to an African-American woman.

Do you have an opinion on which of these events should make it to the Championship and ultimately be named winner of Ohio Memory Madness 2015? Vote now at http://ohiohistoryhost.org/madness! Final Four voting closes at 5pm on Saturday, April 4, and Championship voting opens Sunday, April 5 and closes on Monday, April 6 at 5pm. Next week we’ll announce the winner of the competition, so check back here next Friday!


Thanks to Jenni Salamon, Coordinator for the Ohio Digital Newspaper Program, for this week’s post!

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