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Bryan Hall is the location of the Office of the President at Indiana University. It was the primary office of President Herman B. Wells, who was in office at IU during the time of segregation in the United States. During his tenure, Wells was the first president to attempt to desegregate the university, including its athletic teams like baseball. He supported Eddie Whitehead, the first African American to play on the team, and fervently defended him from his office while being barraged by letters from across the state and the country. These letters are on file in the IU Archives as part of a collection of letters taken from the Indiana University President’s Office records between 1937 and 1962.

  • Herman B. Wells
  • Eddie Whitehead
  • Letter from Herman B. Wells to Capt. Kleopfer
  • Letter from N.A.A.C.P. to Herman B. Wells
  • Letter from KKK to Herman B. Wells
  • Bryan Hall (Indiana University President's House)

Over the course of the mid-20th Century, at a time when race-relations in the U.S. were still incredibly complicated, various letters were sent and received between IU President Herman B. Wells. These letters addressed the issue of the integration of the IU Baseball team with African American players and were sent to the Office of the President, or Bryan Hall.

One of these players, Eddie Whitehead, was the subject of controversy when the team traveled to the South to play three schools and Whitehead was not allowed to play because of a “Gentlemen’s Agreement” between the southern schools. After an article was written about Whitehead’s negative experiences in the segregated South in the Indiana Daily Student, letters were written to President Wells both for and against the treatment of Whitehead on the trip. 

The letters varied from racists defending the treatment and scolding Wells for his allowing of an African American player on the team to members of the N.A.A.C.P. praising Wells for his progessive attitudes and actions on behalf of African American students at IU.

Concurrently, icons like Jackie Robinson and his courageous breaking of the MLB’s color barrier in 1947 set the stage for the racial integration of sports at both the professional and college level. Less than a decade later, when Eddie Whitehead became the first African American to play for the IU Baseball team, he experienced a lot of the same segregated and racially biased treatment that Robinson did while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The article discusses some of the treatment Whitehead endured, including the infamous spring break trip in 1956 when IU played multiple southern schools that refused to allow Whitehead to play because he was African American. According to the article, IU entered the six game contest with the southern schools without prior knowledge of the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” that prevented non-White players from playing there--the same agreement addressed in the correspondence between Herman B. Wells and those for and against the desegregation of baseball at IU.

Indiana University. President. “Indiana University President’s Office records, 1937-1962.” Archives Online at Indiana University. 1937-1962. Accessed April 15, 2020.

Meyer, Matthew. “Eddie Whitehead: Breaking I.U.’s Color Barrier in Baseball.” Blogging Hoosier History: Indiana University Archives. February 11, 2019. Accessed April 15, 2020.

Osterman, Zach. “After Years of Struggle, IU Transforms Itself into a Baseball Powerhouse.” Indianapolis Star. IndyStar, April 9, 2018. Accessed April 15, 2020.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Indiana University Libraries

Indiana University Libraries

Indiana University Archives

Indiana University Archives

Indiana University Archives

Studios, IU. Bryan Hall. Bloomington, IN. Accessed April 28, 2020.