By Doug RichardsNBC NewsATHENS, Ga. --
For Margie Compton, it was a eureka moment.
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Compton is a film archivist at the University of Georgia. She was viewing an early 20th century collection of home movies, shot by a very wealthy plantation-owning family in the southwest Georgia town of Thomasville.
"It's one of four pieces of film that were loosely wound together on one reel. One scene is just family," said Compton. "When I saw the baseball footage as I spooled through the film, I knew it was unique."
It shows employees of the Pebble Hill Plantation, wearing baseball uniforms and playing in a league against other teams based on old south plantations. It was 26 seconds of exceedingly rare footage.
"We suspect and are working to determine whether it is the earliest footage of African Americans playing baseball," Compton said.