The Rescuer with a Gun

One of the stories that Nicholas Johnson doesn’t include in his expanded edition of Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms is the story of W.G. Sloan (full name William G. Sloan, aka Bill Sloan), an African American hero of the Dayton Flood of 1913, who commandeered a steel-bottomed boat at gunpoint from its owner and then spent 68 hours afloat over the next 5 days, rescuing over 300 people from the flood. Mr. Sloan later served as a left-handed pitcher on the Dayton Marcos, a small local “negro baseball” team.

Here’s a quote from Mark Bernstein’s article about him:

W. G. Sloan, the well-known colored ball player, was in the rescue work continuously from Tuesday morning until Friday on the West Side. He took the Caleb family of five persons from a raft on which they had been floating, tossed in the heaving and rushing waters for 48 hours. With Frank Thoro and George Crandall helping, Sloan saved 317 people during 68 hours of continuous work. He carried five cans of fresh water. Most of the rescue work was done with a steel bottom boat which he commandeered at the point of a revolver from a selfish owner at the handle factory, who was not using it himself and refused to allow it to be used by the rescuers” (Bernstein, Mark, quoting some other period source. “In Search of the Well-Known Colored Ball Player,” Ohio Magazine, April 1988, p. 69).

Wright State has a page about him for their Flood play, including a link to his burial site at Woodland Cemetery. (Which, for those not from the area, was the famous cemetery where famous people were buried. The Wright Brothers, for example.)

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