Lou Montgomery, Boston College football's first African-American athlete, has made quite a few headlines in recent weeks. The victim of the Jim Crow laws of the 1930s and 1940s, Montgomery was prohibited from playing in certain games against Southern programs. A website dedicated to telling Montgomery's story remained critical of the school's role in holding him out of games.
Montgomery's story was recently profiled in the Boston Globe by Yvonne Abraham. Reid Oslin, a member of the public affairs staff at the school and author of two books on the history of BC football, wrote a rebuttal to Abraham's article, stating "as immoral and appalling as racial segregation was, the practice was tacitly accepted by most of American society in 1940, from Major League Baseball to the US military."
Oslin goes on to mention that Montgomery's #21 football jersey will soon be retired by the school.
Not only did Montgomery earn his Boston College degree, but BC has gone on to become a national model in NCAA sports for graduating its student-athletes of color. It is appropriate that BC has honored Montgomery with enshrinement in its Hall of Fame, and with the planned retirement of his football jersey. These are the same types of honors afforded another American sports hero and societal pioneer - Jackie Robinson.
Regardless of where you fall in the debate as to whether the school did enough to honor Montgomery's career and sacrifices, I think we can all agree that retiring Montgomery's #21 is a nice honor and an appropriate gesture. Montgomery's #21 would join Doug Flutie's #22 and Mike Ruth's #68 as the only football jersey numbers retired by the school. In addition, seven other former Boston College football players -- Art Donovan, Bill Flynn, Gene Goodreault, Mike Holovak, Charles O'Rourke, Tony Thurman and Louis Urban -- have had their jersey retired by the school.
DeFilippo has announced that Montgomery's jersey will be retired during the season-opener on September 1 against Miami. Sophomore DB Manny Asprilla currently wears #21 for the Eagles.