Syracuse University basketball and football star, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh (center), was often referred to in the press as Hindu (a term at the time used to describe someone of Indian heritage). Singh, however, was born to African American parents. After his father died, his mother remarried a man from the West Indies who adopted young Wilmeth Webb.
While he never claimed to be something he wasn’t (and often tried to clear up the error in the press to no avail), this popular misconception allowed Sidat-Singh to travel and play with teammates to a schools that did not allow African Americans to compete in sports. An article finally explaining his true ethnicity cost him the opportunity to play in a game soon after in Maryland. The star halfback, known as the Syracuse Walking Dream, sat on the sidelines as the Orangemen lost the game, powerless to assist his teammates.
After college, there were no opportunities for an African American in professional sports, so Sidat-Singh played for two barnstorming teams, the Syracuse Reds and the Harlem Renaissance.
In 1943, he answered the call to serve his country and became a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. On May 9, 1943, his engine failed during a training mission over Lake Huron and Sidat-Singh drowned. He was 25 years old.