Sports in the Time of Slavery

What legal regulations impacted slave sports?

The religious beliefs of African slaves and indentured servants, who were the first to come to the United States, restricted their practice of sports. Some believe that slaves had more in common with Native Americans in their love and practice of sports than with white Europeans. Native Americans also had more free time on their hands than blacks, and their sports were not restricted by religious beliefs. As sports activities threatened to disrupt the daily life of the colonists, colonial governors allowed field days for whites only, in an effort to keep control of the sports activities. Slaves were allowed to train gamecocks and horses, and to work in taverns (then called “ordinaries”). Before the Revolutionary War, slaves ran races, swam, engaged in stick fights, wrestled, boxed, and played ball games—all activities that they knew from their motherland.


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