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Thu, 08.07.1879

James Peters, Rugby Player born

James Peters

*James Peters was born on this date in 1879. He was a Black Rugby player.

From Salford, England, his father, George Peters, was from the West Indies and worked in a circus until he was killed in a lion's cage. Young Peters played cricket and rugby at school. He was also an outstanding (all-around) athlete winning the 100 yards, mile, long jump, high jump, and walking races in 1894.  After leaving school, Peters became a printer.  He moved to Bristol in 1898 and, in 1900, joined Knowle Rugby Club. Some white members objected to the inclusion of a Black man and resigned.

In 1902 Peters moved to Plymouth, England, and worked in the Devonport Dockyards as a carpenter.  He played for the Devon team, where in 1906, the South African tourists refused to take the field to play the county when they discovered they had a black man on the team.  However, when Devon won the County Championship, the public began campaigning for Peters to play for England. On March 17, 1907, Peters played for England against Scotland. He became the first black man to play rugby in an international game. The newspapers at the time did not refer to this at all.

Although The Sportsman commented that the "dusky Plymouth man did many good things, especially in passing." The Yorkshire Post praised his performance but noted that "his selection is by no means popular on racial grounds." In his next game against France, he scored a try in England's 35-8 victory. Ironically he was not picked on racial grounds for the next game against South Africa. Peters returned to the team for the next two games against Scotland and Wales. However, he was dropped for the game against Ireland. In 1910 Peters lost three fingers in a dockyard accident.

He continued to play rugby until 1912, when he was suspended after it was discovered Devon Rugby Club had paid him. Peters became a professional, playing Rugby League games for Barrow and St. Helen's. James Peters died on March 26, 1954.

To become a Professional Athlete

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Black is what the prisons are, The stagnant vortex of the hours Swept into totality, Creeping in the perjured heart, Bitter in the vulgar rhyme, Bitter on the walls; Black is where the devils... THE AFRICAN AFFAIR by Bruce M. Wright.
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