On Display from May 1, 2010 through June 11, 2010
“Pride and Passion: The African- American Baseball Experience,” a traveling exhibition opening at the Birmingham Public Library on May 1, 2010, examines the challenges faced by African-American baseball players as they sought equal opportunities in their sport beginning in the post-Civil War era.
In the 1880s, more than 30 African Americans were on teams in baseball’s major and minor leagues, however, opportunities diminished as Reconstruction ended and America became entrenched in segregation. During the 1887 season, league owners agreed to make no new contracts with African-American players. Until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, baseball was a segregated sport.
In response, more than 200 independent all-black teams organized and barnstormed the country, developing a reputation for a fast-running, power-hitting game. By the 1920s, black baseball had its own successful professional leagues. Negro league baseball grew into a multi-million dollar enterprise and became a focus of great pride in the African- American community. Legendary figures such as Rube Foster, Buck Leonard, Oscar Charleston, James “Cool Papa” Bell, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige thrilled audiences and helped pave the way for integration of the major leagues in the mid-20th century.
In 1971, Satchel Paige became the first player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame based solely on his performance in the Negro leagues. In the following years, more than 35 players and managers from such powerhouse Negro league teams as the Chicago American Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, St. Louis Stars, Pittsburgh Crawfords, and Homestead Grays have all been voted into the Hall of Fame.
“We are delighted to have been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said Renee Blalock, Birmingham Public Library Director. “Players in the Negro leagues were some of the most talented and inspiring sports figures of their day. This exhibition shows that in spite of segregation, black players helped advance the game of baseball in many ways. We are especially excited about the opportunities that the exhibit will provide to celebrate Birmingham’s place in the African-American baseball experience. We are very fortunate to be hosting the exhibit during the celebration of Rickwood Field’s 100th anniversary. The two events will allow us to join the home of the Birmingham Black Barons with the rich history of the team.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the American Library Association Public Programs Office has organized the traveling exhibition, which was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): great ideas brought to life. The traveling exhibition is based upon one of the same name on permanent display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N. Y.
This traveling exhibition is composed of colorful freestanding panels featuring photographs of teams, players, original documents, and artifacts in the collections of The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as well as other institutions and collections across the U.S.
The Birmingham Public Library is sponsoring free programs and other events for the public in connection with the exhibition. Contact 205-226-3742 or visit www.bplonline.org for more information. “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience” will be on display at the library until June 11, 2010.
Contact: Sandi Lee - Public Services Coordinator, Birmingham Public Library
(205) 226-3742, email@example.com
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