February is both Black History Month which includes the CIAA Basketball Tournament. Scholar Raja Malikah R., PHD takes a look back at the previous instance of Baltimore as a pit stop for the CIAA Tournament.
The CIAA Basketball Tournament returns to Baltimore, Maryland, where the Panthers of Virginia Union University defeated the Bulls of Johnson C. Smith University by a score of 83 to 81 to win the seventh annual championship 70 years ago. “For the first time in the history of the event, Baltimore will play host,” announced the Chicago Defender in 1952. After six successful years in the nation’s capital, the CIAA and its tournament committee relocated the postseason championship to Charm City that season.
Outside of Washington D.C., Baltimore was among the only cities below the Mason-Dixon line, and during the days of segregation, with the facilities and resources to accommodate African Americans and CIAA tournament goers.
During the 1952 postseason, most of the tournament’s excitement and news centered on location, place, and space. The enthusiasm centered not only on Baltimore, but also on the campus of Morgan State University. It was the first time that the championships were held on an HBCU campus and inside a Black college gymnasium–the then “new million-dollar Edward P. Hurt Gymnasium.”
Among the reasons for relocation was to acknowledge the growth of CIAA basketball, by hosting the 1952 tournament inside Hurt Gymnasium as part of its official dedication and opening ceremonies that year. With a seating capacity of 2,200, the gym honored “Morgan’s outstanding and veteran coach of football and track.” According to Virginia State University educator James A. Moore, it represented “a monument to a man” and was erected to “live as long as he lives, and as long as many of us here.”