Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Linda Borish

Second Advisor

Dr. Mitch Kachun

Third Advisor

Dr. Ross Gregory

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Located in the southwestern corner of the state in Berrien County, the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan rests along the shores of Lake Michigan, in the heart of the Fruit Belt, and near the St. Joseph River. Not until the early 1940s did a significant number of black migrants arrive from the South and larger metropolitan areas in the North to take advantage of a booming a wartime economy, higher paying jobs, and better living conditions. The growing black presence greatly altered the social, political, cultural, and economic structure of Benton Harbor. By the late 1950s and early 1960s the community experienced racial tension in several areas of society, partly from a proposal for integrated public schools, but mostly from black concerns over segregated neighborhoods and unfair labor practices. This thesis examines the years 1945 to 1965, a time when integrated boys' sport teams at Benton Harbor High School gained statewide recognition, especially in basketball. It utilizes diverse primary sources to establish connections between society, sport, and race in Benton Harbor to examine the effects of racial change and a movement towards integration.