Harrison Fitch, the first African-American basketball player at Connecticut State College

Harrison "Honey" Fitch, the first African-American basketball player at the Connecticut State College, 1934

Harrison B. “Honey” Fitch was a basketball standout at his high school in New Haven, and in 1932 enrolled as a freshman at the Connecticut State College (the name changed later to the University of Connecticut).  He was a strong member of the CSC basketball team yet endured racism and harassment at times from the players of opposing teams, most notably in a game, on January 27, 1934, against the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London.  The Academy refused to play the game if Fitch was on the court, arguing, as Mark Roy wrote in the February 2, 2004, UConn Advance, that “because half of the Academy’s student body was from the southern states, they had a tradition ‘that no negro players be permitted to engage in contests at the Academy.'”

Fitch’s teammates threatened to leave the basketball court if he was not allowed to play, and Fitch joined them in warming up for the game, while the officials argued and delayed the start of the game for several hours.  Although the Coast Guard relented, and CSC won the game 31 to 29, the team’s coach, John Heldman, inexplicably kept Fitch on the bench the entire game.

Fitch left CSC at the end of the 1934 academic year and transferred to American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts.  He then worked in research for the Monsanto Corporation, married in 1939 and had two sons, and died in the early 1990s.  His son, Brooks Fitch, told Mark Roy that his father told him he had a good experience as a student at the CSC and was always a fan of UConn basketball.

Alan Thacker Busby, the university’s first African-American student

Alan Thacker Busby, the university's first African-American student, 1990

In 1914 Alan Thacker Busby of Worcester, Massachusetts, enrolled at the Connecticut Agricultural College, the first African-American student to attend what would become the University of Connecticut.  He worked his way through college by milking cows, feeding hogs and cutting ice from the campus pond and was an honor student and a member of the football team his Junior year.  In 1918 became the college’s first African-American graduate. After he graduated from college he served in World War I as a member of the Army’s all-black Field Artillery Unit, which stayed in France months after the war ended. After his military service he was an Animal Husbandry professor at Bordentown Industrial School in New Jersey, Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in Alcorn, Mississippi, and Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Busby Suites, a dormitory on the Storrs campus, was named in his honor.

This photograph shows Prof. Busby back at the University of Connecticut, when he returned to his alma mater in Fall 1990 to act as Grand Marshall of the Homecoming Parade.