Kenny Washington Makes Headlines with L.A. Rams as First Black NFL Player

By NYPL Staff
February 1, 2019
Los Angeles football player Kenny Washington

Kenny Washington in 1940NYPL Digital Collections image ID 5112001

Super Bowl contender the L.A. Rams have a special place in sports history: the team signed the first black player in the NFL in 1946. Kenny Washington, a Los Angeles native, graduated from UCLA in 1940. Although a stellar athlete, Washington was barred from playing in the NFL because he was black. He played for the Hollywood Bears of the Pacific Coast League and the San Francisco Clippers of the AF. In 1946 he was finally offered a contract to play for the Los Angeles Rams, making Washington the first African American player in the modern era NFL.

Learn more about Kenny Washington by exploring our many African American historical newspapers collections, such as African American Newspapers, 1827-1998 (Readex) and ProQuest Historical African American Newspapers. Historical newspapers can help you  research events of the past, and The New York Public Library offers a number of digitized collections of newspapers from all across the world, from the colonial period to present day. To further your research explore the over 500 online research options available to New York Public Library patrons, many accessible from home with a library card.

Check out these newspaper headlines featuring Kenny Washington. All newspapers are accessible with your New York Public Library Card.

Kenny Washington in Chicago Defender

The Chicago Defender, Mar 30 1946

Kenny Washington in Afro American

Afro-American, Mar 30 1946

Kenny Washington in New Journal and Guide

New Journal and Guide, Mar 30 1946

Kenny Washington

Los Angeles Sentinel, Mar 28 1946


"Kenny Washington Breaks Into National Football League: Signed by Champion Los Angeles Rams." New Journal and Guide (1916-2003), Mar 30 1946, p. 12. ProQuest. 25 Jan 2019.

"Kenny Washington Signs with L.A. Rams." The Chicago Defender (National edition) (1921-1967), Mar 30 1946, p. 11. ProQuest. 25 Jan 2019.

"Los Angeles Pro Eleven Signs Kenny Washington." Afro-American (1893-1988), Mar 30 1946, p. 18. ProQuest. 25 Jan 2019.

Robinson, Edward Abie. "Rams Sign Kenny Washington." Los Angeles Sentinel (1934-2005), Mar 28 1946, p. 22. ProQuest. 25 Jan 2019.