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Women in the Negro Leagues: Effa Manley

Newark Eagles logo

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.
Newark Eagles
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Negro League Jersey replicas of original jersey for Newark Eagles

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Newark Eagles Stars

Larry Doby
Monte Irving
Don Newcombe

, one of the National Negro League's premier teams, reached a zenith in 1946 by beating the the KANSAS CITY MONARCHS for the pennant.

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Owner and Manager 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.”
Grave of Effa ManleyThe 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 Baseball.”

JPEG picture of Effa Manley


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 team.

black Tee featuring 20 Negro League logos

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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.

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