Holcombe Rucker (1926-1965) dedicated his life to his community. Although he died young, his memory endures because of the major basketball tournament he founded. Rucker grew up in Manhattan, attended Benjamin Franklin High School, and between 1948 and 1964 worked for Parks as a playground director in numerous Harlem locales.
In 1947, the year that Rucker married Mary Thomas, he started a basketball tournament in Harlem. The Rucker League’s motto was “each one, teach one,” and it stressed education in combination with recreation. Rucker personally taught participants reading fundamentals, graded their homework, and let success on report cards influence who would play. Throughout the course of the tournaments, Rucker helped to obtain over 700 college athletic scholarships for the participants. Rucker continued his own education with a degree from the City College of New York in 1962, and then taught English classes at J.H.S. 139.
Learn about the trials and triumphs of the black experience in the United States and how New York City honors black history in our parks today.