Original Group Photograph of the Girls' Basketball Team, Webster High School, Minden, Louisiana, 1931
Minden, LA: 1931. Very Good. Item #14390
Shreveport, LA: 1931. Original black and white photograph (15.5x25.5cm.) depicting the girls' basketball team alongside their coach Mr. Russ, each player identified in ink manuscript along bottom of image. Photograph slightly curled with very small flaw at bottom of image, else Very Good overall. Misidentifying manuscript label mounted to verso, identifying the team in "Shreveport LA / Circa 1947 / Washington
The label is a red herring, misdating and misplacing the photograph sixteen years late and thirty miles west. The center player holds a basketball dated '31, nineteen years before Booker T. Washington High School was founded. The school almost certainly is Webster High School in Minden, Louisiana, thirty miles east. The building in the background and the women's slightly mismatching uniforms conform to those depicted in W.L.G. Abney's 1950s booklet "The History of Webster High School." Indeed, the simple whitewashed wooden structure sitting on a brick pile foundation appears to be either the back of the dormitory or the newly-completed library, the ground still unpaved dirt.
The story of the founding of Webster High School, less than ten years earlier in 1922, displays the dedication and financial burden of a Black community in the heart of the Jim Crow South. According to Abney's history, a Colored Board of Trustees comprised of members of the community first set out to find a suitable site for a new school, settling on a piece of land "owned and occupied as a home by one of Minden's colored citizens, Mr. Henry Harris, who was perfectly happy there and had no desire to sell." Abney glosses over the displacement of Harris, but the site was secured and approved by the (White) Parish board "with the understanding that the colored people themselves would have to make substantial financial contribution if they were to secure this site because no money had been budgeted for the cause at that time." Indeed, by 1931 the list of state-sponsored schools in Louisiana for White and Black students was sixty-eight to four. Webster was not one of those four schools.
As Abney's history delineates, however, the money was raised by the community, through the leadership and outreach of the Colored Board of Trustees, and by 1931 a library had been erected and numerous sports teams active. The date is also significant as it coincides with the founding of two of the first all-Black, all-women's professional basketball clubs, the Philadelphia Tribune Girls and the Chicago Romas. Perhaps these pioneering teams inspired the formation of Webster High School's girls' basketball team. In any case, the members listed are as follows: Coach Mr. Russ, Tena Lowery, Hazel Garrett, Willie Stewart, B. Green, M. Ford, Bran (?) Watson, M. Gafford, E. McCorey, Ella B. Gafford, Lorscie (?) Henry, and Louella Ruffin.