Bough Breaks the Color Barrier

As the first Black History Month of this new decade, February of 2020, was commemorated at St. Francis College (SFC) Brooklyn Heights, NY,  the Athletics department kicked it off by honoring Al Innis, center with the 1955-56 St. Francis Terriers, who was the Metropolitan New York Conference Regular Season Champions with a 21—4 record. He became the first recipient of the Levi “Yogi” Bough Trailblazer Award.

Alethea Harris, Jamella and Jamel Tyler present the Levi G. Bough Trail blazer award to AL Innis

This award came about because of the diligence of Jamal Womack, Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach at SFC. In researching the college’s basketball historical events, he came across the story of Levi “Yogi” Bough breaking the color barrier as the first African American to play on the men’s basketball team in 1947.

Jamaal Womack

As an amateur “genealogist”, I developed a blog that included the Bough family. I also, on occasion, try to sharpen my skills by participating in various challenges. One such challenge, the Amy Crow genealogy series “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”, provided me with an opportunity to showcase my uncle, Levi “Yogi” Bough.

The article caught the attention of Asst. Coach Womack, who commented “the time is now”. That led to St. Francis College finally acknowledging my uncle’s challenges as the first Black player at their institution, and his many contributions, athletically and academically.    In November 2019, he was officially recognized with a ceremony on campus, with his family, including myself, in attendance. It was on that very special celebration that the Levi “Yogi” Bough Trailblazer Award was established; to pay tribute to a player who displayed the same trailblazing attributes that my uncle, “Yogi” exhibited as an alumnus of this grand center of learning.

My uncle’s legacy will remain in the annals of the history books, to be of encouragement to the many young black/brown men, those now here and those to come. I am proud of my uncle, thankful to SFC Director of Athletics Irma Garcia, Associate Director Maggie Martini.  I am also grateful to the Bough family in New York for joining me to celebrate this historic event, honoring the legacy, of our beloved Levi “Yogi” Bough. 

A heartfelt thank-you to Jamaal Womack who believed that during the 70th year of the SFC Terriers basketball team; it was time to honor “Yogi” officially.   Jamaal said the celebration would be filled with publicity activities for the 2-3-day event, to include the NY Amsterdam News coverage.   Coach Womack proudly stated:  For the first time ever, The Levi “Yogi” Bough Trail Blazer award will be presented every first basketball game, Black History (February) Month, at St. Francis College, Bklyn, NY.

Bough Family Members and SFC Faculty

Levi G. Bough was born 1921 in St. Croix, USVI.  He was the son of Julius and Carolyn Gasper-Bough. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 87 at his home in Switzerland.

By shelley dewese

As I continue to search out my history, I am discovering how much I did not know. The more information that is disclosed about my ancestry, the more I learn and understand how I am the person that has evolved today. As a native New Yorker, with roots in Coastal Georgia and deep roots in the Danish West Indies, now the Virgin Islands of the United States or commonly referred to as the United States Virgin Islands, I have always had a yearning to return to my maternal homeland. In September of 1976, my family and I relocated back to St. Croix. While living in New York, I was always telling my friends about my trip back home, but here I was actually waking up every day, walking among the streets and people that I have identified myself with all of my life. At the time, I was not involved in any genealogical work, but I knew there was a missing link that became completed after I was offered the opportunity to transfer Danish documents into a database. That opened up my world and I realize that this was my niche. I now had the tools to explore and document my ancestry. Growing up, my mother always impressed upon her children the pride in being a “Bough”, which was her surname. Now I was able to track where that pride came from, through participating in family history projects and meeting new family, as we gathered together for the Bough Family Reunion on St. Croix in July of 2012. As I continued to research, I found my passion extending to photography. Sunsets and street art are my favorite features, as shown in my tumblr blog I also began blogging, and found that it has help me to improve my writing skills. Through the comments and well wishes, I have been encouraged to continue to write the stories and events of my life. Whether or not your roots trace back to the Danish West Indies, you will find a beautiful tapestry of life that reflects our “baseball and apple pie”. This site affords you the chance to transform yourself to a time during the Danish period (1734-1917) where life was both simple and complex. If you have any questions, comments, or need assistance in searching for a Danish West Indies ancestor, I invite you to drop me an email.

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