A History of Bridge and Segregation

One of the things that I love most about the game of bridge is the fact that nobody is excluded from the table – and being disabled, this means something personal to me –  but things weren’t always this way in clubs.

Back in the early 1930s, many clubs in the US still excluded black players, and a look into history tells of how the American Bridge Association was founded to address the need of many players of the time.

Founding the ABA: Bridge’s Revolution

We can thank a group of African-American tennis players for the American Bridge Association, which was founded in 1932 to address the needs of bridge players then-excluded from groups like the ACBL and a great deal of bridge clubs.

Civil rights activist Dr. ME DuBisette became the organization’s first president, and the first tournament – all-inclusive, of course – was launched in 1933. From there, the group did what it can for the promotion of civil rights at the time, from donations to worthy causes through to encouraging members (through president Victor Daly) to join the iconic Washington march supporting Dr. Martin Luther King.

Eventually, the ACBL joined suit and eliminated all forms of segregation in bridge games in the year 1967.

Today, both organizations are (thankfully) all-inclusive – and they work in co-operation to promote bridge.

Segregation in South Africa

South Africa, notorious for the system of segregation known as Apartheid, ran into its own issues on the international bridge circuit – and chose to remain part of the World Bridge Federation, while withdrawing from world games unless invited.

A 1985 article in the NY Times (“Bridge Agreement Settles the Issue of the Status of South Africa”) notes:

“An agreement was reached by which South Africa will not compete in world events unless invited to do so, but will remain a member of the world body, which will do everything it can to encourage South African bridge in other respects.”

The ABA Today

The ABA still continues today. Anyone can consider joining the ABA at a rate of $50 per year.

They have their own form of Masterpoints, and a lot of handy links for students and teachers, including a Find a Teacher section on their website and a handbook for new players.

The ABA also happens to do a lot of good for other causes, including the F. Alberta Peterson Scholarship for students in need of a hand.

And, they offer some tournaments through BBO, with results available to view here.