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Sun, 10.25.2020

John Howard Armstrong, Track Athlete born

*John Armstrong Howard was born on this date in 1888.   He was a Black Canadian track and field athlete, Canada's first Black Olympic athlete.    

Born in the United States, he was the son of Robert and Cornelia Howard; he came to Winnipeg with his father in 1907, who worked as a mechanic at the Crescent Creamery. An outstanding athlete, he played baseball for the creamery’s team and competed in local running races.  In addition to his domination of Canadian sprinting, he played baseball as a catcher on the Crescent Creamery Baseball Club in Winnipeg and competed in the 1912 Summer Olympics. 

In the Olympics in Stockholm, he was hindered by a stomach ailment and eliminated in the semi-finals of the 100 meters competition and the 200 meters event. He was also a member of the Canadian relay teams, which were eliminated in the semi-final of the 4x100 meter relay competition and the first round of the 4x400 meter relay event.  In 1917, he went to France to fight in World War I.

He returned two years later with a white-English wife, Edith (née Lipscomb).  They homesteaded in Ste. Rose du Lac, north of Winnipeg, but were forced to leave by hostility to interracial marriage.  Howard found work as a railway porter. Later, the marriage broke up.  John Armstrong Howard, the grandfather of Olympic sprinter Harry Jerome, died on January 9, 1937. 

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