Effa was born March 27, 1900, to a seamstress named Bertha Ford Brooks. Her birth
was the result of an affair her mother had with the
financier John M. Bishop. The husband of Bertha Brooks, Benjamin Brooks, received
a settlement of $10,000 from Mr. Bishop and they
divorced. Bertha Brooks married a man named B.A. Cole. Between the two marriages
and the affair, Effa’s mother produced seven
children. All of Effa’s half sisters and brothers were considered black. Effa’s
mother was white, but her two husbands were black.
Although Effa’s father was also white, Effa choose to live as a black person.
In 1916, she graduated from William Penn High School in
Philadelphia. She married a man named Bush, but the marriage failed. In 1932,
she met Abe Manley.
One September day at the 1932 World Series in New York, a thirty-two year old
Effa met Abe Manley, a black man older than her by
fifteen or twenty-four years. The next year, on June 15, 1933, they married.
Two years later, they became owners of a baseball team.
cotton flannel replacas of the original jerseys worn by Negro League Players
Newark Eagles Stars
The NEWARKK EAGLES, one
of the National Negro League's premier teams, reached a zenith in 1946 by beating
the the KANSAS CITY MONARCHS for the pennant.
Effa Manley became a co-owner of the Newark Eagles, a Negro League Team, in 1935.
Like many other team owners on the East coast,
Abe Manley made his money in the numbers. The Manleys started the team in Brooklyn
in 1935, naming it after the local newspaper. The
Eagles played in the Brooklyn Dodger's Ebbets Field. It was common for Negro
League teams to use major league ballparks. In 1936,
they purchased the Newark Dodgers franchise and moved the Eagles to Newark. They
owned the team until 1948. He left the management
of the team to his wife, Effa. Others described her many times as a beautiful
woman and wore many of the fashions of the day. Effa Manley
supported ballplayers. She believed they deserved better schedules, better travel,
and better salaries. She also believed in Negro League
teams building their own ball parks instead of paying to use Major League parks.
Under her management, the Newark Eagles won the Negro World Series in 1946. Sometimes
she managed from her box seats. One
player remembered “Her bunt signal was this: she’d cross her legs. One batter
got so excited watching her legs that he got hit in the head
with a ball and was knocked unconscious.”
great baseball owner and manager of the Negro
League team the Newark Eagles, Effa
Manley died April 16, 1981. When she died
at 81 she was believed to be the last surviving owner of a franchise of a black
baseball team. She was buried on Saturday, April 25, 1981,
at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, CA. Her gravestone reads “She Loved
"Stone, Johnson and Morgan were not the only women in Negro
Leagues baseball. Effa Manley, married to the owner of
the Newark Eagles, actively managed the team, calling plays, positioning
players, rotating pitchers. She went on road trips with them,
demanding and getting respect. To the best of my knowledge, she
remains the ONLY woman ever to manage an all-male pro baseball
In addition to managing baseball, Effa Manley was a social activist. The Manleys
lived in Sugar Hill, an upper-class section of Harlem that
included such neighbors as W.E.B. DuBois, Roy Wilkins, Walter White, and Thurgood
Marshall. Her service included work on the
Children’s Day Camp Committee, and the community organized Citizen’s League for
Fair Play. The Citizen’s League organized a 1934
boycott of Harlem stores that refused to hire black salesclerks. Whites owned
most of the large retail stores along 125th Street in the heart
of the commercial area. Effa Manley walked in the picket lines and negotiated
for the hiring of blacks for more than just menial jobs, such as
janitorial work. In 1936, as an officer on the Edgecombe Sanitarium Renaissance
Committee, she led a group to save the mortgage of
Edgecombe Sanitarium in Harlem. She was also treasurer of the Newark NAACP and
frequently held much publicized “Anti-Lynching
Days” at the ball park However, baseball was her first love. She kept a scrapbook
for many years (seen below), which is now in the
National Baseball Hall of Fame.