Happy “I Ate Too Much Now I’m Sick” Day!
How many of you know about the Black Auto Racers Association? Although the organization was short-lived, its impact remains with the current crop of black racers in the word of motorsports today.
Malcolm Durham, Leonard W. Miller, Wendell Scott, and Ronald Hines (l-r) of the Black American Racers Association.
The Black American Racers Association (BARA) was founded in August 1972 in Trenton, New Jersey by Leonard Miller, Ron Hines, Eugene Gadson, and Charles Singleton. BARA was formed to give recognition to black racing drivers, crews, mechanics, car owners, and other members of the auto racing community and corporations that help promote black racing development. BARA ceased operations in 1978.
In BARA’s five years in existence, its membership grew to nearly 5000 persons, including several car clubs. Each year BARA sponsored a dinner and dance honoring black racing’s most accomplished individuals. Sumner “Red” Oliver, a black racing pioneer from Indianapolis, was honored at BARA’s first convention in Trenton, New Jersey in 1974, for his success as a driver from the 1920s through the 1950s and as a mechanic on the United States Auto Club (USAC) championship circuit. Corporate recognition at the 1974 convention included the BARA-Schaefer Brewing Company Award to Stock Car Racing magazine for its coverage of blacks in racing in 1973, and to Champion Spark Plug Company for its support of black racing development.
BARA’s 1975 convention in Arlington, Virginia honored Wendell Scott, the well-known, longtime NASCAR competitor and BARA’s first vice-president. Scott was the only black to win a NASCAR race, in 1961. (The Ford Motor Company refused to recognize Scott’s accomplishments at the awards banquet.)The 1975 BARA–Schaefer Brewing Company awards were presented to the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company for its historic pioneering sponsorship of Black American Racers Inc., a Formula Super Vee Gold Cup and Formula 5000 road racing team with driver Benny Scott.
At BARA’s 1976 convention BARA’s first president, Malcolm Durham, was honored for his historic accomplishments in drag racing. Durham won many times on the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) circuit and was well known on the associated match racing circuit with his “Strip Blazer” Pro Stock drag cars. He was the successful owner-operator of Supercar Engineering, a racing car shop in Hyattsville, Maryland, until his death in 2006.
At the 1977 convention, BARA honored Tommy Thompson for his accomplishments as the driver and chief mechanic for the Black American Racers, Inc. (BAR) Formula Super Vee road racer. Thompson won the Northeast Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Formula Super Vee Championship in 1977 – the first black to accomplish such a feat. Tommy Thompson, who later died in a crash at a 1978 race in Trenton, was recognized with awards from STP, Trio Auto Supply of Trenton, and Detroit-based General Kinetics Cams.
BARA published a Black Racers Yearbook in 1974. It was an official annual publication of BARA and sold for one dollar. The publication had 32 pages and consisted of articles covering topics such as how to obtain sponsorship and challenges for black racers. It was the only yearbook the association published. This now rare publication covered black racing history from the 1930s to the early 1970s. Seven major corporations placed ads in the yearbook, and it sold thousands of copies in the United States.
BARA also published a monthly newsletter, which highlighted accomplishments by blacks in all phases of auto racing around the United States.
BARA’s first chairman, Leonard Miller, remains one of America’s most knowledgeable authorities on the history of blacks in motor racing. He has been owner and president of various winning teams in drag racing, road racing, dirt track racing and oval track racing. He is the author of Silent Thunder: Breaking Through Cultural, Racial, and Class Barriers in Motorsports (2004), a chronicle of his life in auto racing.
There is currently a United Black Drag Racers Association. Check their site for more information here.