Prior to the Rams move to Los Angeles and the Dons formation there, professional football was a whites-only league.  Despite the presence of teams at all-black collegiate schools like Grambling and Southern University, the National Football League had remained the playground and business for whites only.  No one of African-American descent had played in the NFL since 1933, when Joe Lillard was released by the Chicago Cardinals. The black press across the country claimed that Lillard had been "Too Good For His Own Good" and that the "color of his skin had driven him" out of the league.  In 1935, Lilliard's former head coach in Chicago admitted that an unwritten rule barred blacks from the game for their own protection.  Lilliard had been the victim of racism.  Most major colleges weren't allowing blacks to play for their football teams, either; some were not yet integrated, and many of the ones that were did not allow blacks to play.
    Perhaps do its location away from the older and more established racial boundries back East, Los Angeles was a little more progressive when it came to integrating football and the races.  At the collegiate level, UCLA sported three terrific African-American athletes on their squad --Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, and  Jackie Robinson.  Robinson was a year behind Strode and Washington in school, but the most accomplished athlete UCLA has ever seen, lettering in an unprecedented four sports.  The sports papers were filled with quotes from writers and coaches who marvelled at his athleticism.  Strode was an accomplished two-way player, with tremendous size for the time (220 pounds).  Washington, however, was the most renowned.  He was the team's star half-back, and finished as the school's all-time leading rusher and passer.  Robinson called him "the greatest footbal player I ever saw," and he was not alone in that heaping that praise on Washington, as both fans, coaches and media from around the country marvelled at his ability.Kenny Washington  Together with Robinson, they media dubbed them the "Goal Dust Twins".  However, Washington was only voted to the All-Americans second-team.  Furthermore, like Robinson and Strode, he was not drafted by the NFL.
    Somewhat surprisingly, both Washington and Robinson were both invited to various all-star games to play against NFL teams in exhibitions.   Robinson travelled to one highly publicized game in Chicago, and Washington stayed home to compete in several others.  Both players received extensive local coverage in the white press, although the subject of their inability to play in professionally was only discussed by a few columnists and radio men, and never reported on the front page.  Shut out of the NFL, the only place for blacks to turn to besides these sorts of exhibitions were the minor-leagues.  Los Angeles at this time was the centerpiece of the Pacific Coast Football League (PCFL), which featured integrated teams such as the Los Angeles Bulldogs and Hollywood Bears.  "Negro League" football teams did not have the following of their baseball counterparts, although some were in existence back East.  Robinson played one game for the Bulldogs after leaving school in 1941, and then he left Los Angeles to go to Hawaii, where he played for the local minor-league Honolulu Bears.  Washington, Strode, and other black players from local colleges stuck around and played i the PCFL.  When World War II broke out, they entered the military.  Robinson came home in 1944, played one game for the Bulldogs, and then headed East -- he signed a contract with minor-league baseball's Montreal Royals; three years later he would become the most famous African-American in history when he broke major-league baseball's color line.
    Washington came back to Los Angeles and played the 1945 season with the Bulldogs.  Other black players returned from the war around this time and resumed playing ball with the Bulldogs, Bears, and Los Angeles Mustangs of the PCFL.  By January of 1946, however, two big-time football teams were setting up shop in Los Angeles.  The Rams moved from Cleveland, and the Dons of the new All-American Football Conference were here as well.  Both teams wanted to play in the Los Angeles Coliseum.  Neither team had plans to integrate their all-white rosters with local black talent.  At that  a Coliseum Commission meeting to discuss the matter of who would receive playing dates at the stadium, local black writers, including Halley Harding of the Los Angeles Tribune and Herman Hill the west coast correspondent of the Pittsburgh Courier, pointed out that the Coliseum should not let organizations that practice racial discrimination use the Coliseum.  With the NFL and AAFC continuing their whites-only policy, the Rams and Dons were faced with not being allowed to play at the only suitable professional football stadium in Los Angeles
discrimination.  The Rams, followed by the Dons, then announced their intent to sign black athletes and the Coliseum Commission allowed both teams to use the stadium.  The Rams signed Kenny Washington, who at age 27 had suffered a knee injury and was not the quick athlete he once was.  A Rams coach admitted that Washington was signed so the Rams could obtain the right to play at the Coliseum.  Washington also could attract local black fans out to the stadium at a time when the Rams desperately needed to sell as many seats as they could.  Woody Strode was sooned signed as well, even though his best days were behind him as well.  The signings were hailed in the black press and despite precluding Jackie Robinson's efforts with the Dodgers by a few years, they did not receive much national attention.  On the field, Ram coach Adam Walsh's concerns over quarterback existing quarterback Bob Waterfield, Walsh mentioned to reporters that he was even considering giving Washington a shot at the quarterback position.  Washington impressed Walsh was his arm and athleticism, but in the end the coach with Waterfield and Washington continued to play halfback, leading the Rams in rushing the following year in 1947 despite his bad knee.  It would be another twenty years before an African-American could finally start a game at quarterback, and thirty years before one would get a shot as a regular starter.
    The Dons hadn't been in a rush to sign Washington or Strode, althoug they agreed to sign black athletes to receive access to the Coliseum.  They did not follow up on that pledge, however, until their second year of existence in 1947.  They were hampered their first year because another AAFC franchise, the Miami Seahawks, would not play against any integrated teams.  With pressure from the local black press especially heavy, and the Seahawks out of business by 1947, the Dons agreed to sign Ezzert Anderson, John Brown and Bert Piggott, who had been playing in the PCFL.   The Cleveland Browns, the dominant team in the AAFC (winning all four championships), lacked the Dons qualms over signing black players, and signed the massive Marion Motley over the objections of his star quarterback Otto Graham, whose racism was no secret.  Motley would go on to the NFL Hall of Fame.
    With the color line now broken, both leagues began to integrate, and the Rams led the way.  Desperate to win games and fans, the Rams sought out black players who could help them.  They signed Paul "Tank" Younger from Grambling in 1949 to play both fullback and linebacker.  Younger was only twenty at the time, and took it upon itself to set an example to and help pave the way for other black college players. Tank Younger The following year the Rams added the equally large (230 pounds) Deacon Dan Towler, a former divinity student from USC.  Towler led the team in rushing in 1951 through 1953, Younger would go on to lead the team in rushing in 1954.  Several seasons later he would go on to become the first black to play in the NFL All-Star game.  Younger was also considered the greatest single-platoon player in Rams history (players who played both offense and defense).  In 1952, they signed rookie Dick "Night Train" Lane, who stole 14 interceptions that year, a record that has never been broken.  These players, like several others the Rams signed over the years, came from one of three places; West Coast schools like USC or UCLA, southern Black schools, or from the military.  Most colleges in the American south were still not integrated, so naturally there were no black players on those squads.  Other schools limited the number of blacks on a roster.  Nonetheless, World War II had a tremendous impact in changing racial attitudes by whites towards blacks in the United States, and the war between the Dons and Rams was just as beneficial.
 

Harris had played his collegiate ball at Grambling, where head coach