Charles Follis was the first African-American to be paid for playing football in North America.  He began with the Shelby Blues in 1902 and was paid in 1904.  In addition to being an outstanding football player, Follis was an outstanding baseball player. 

One of his teammates in Shelby was Branch Rickey, who would later become an executive with the Dodgers.  Rickey was the man who signed Jackie Robinson to his first contract.