University of Memphis Photo
"Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience" Comes to the U of M’s McWherter Library Sept. 8 through Oct. 16 University News
For release: August 11, 2009

For press information, contact Tom Mendina, 901-678-4310

East Squad from 1939 East-West All Star Game, courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
East Squad from 1939 East-West All Star Game, courtesy of the National Baseball
Hall of Fame and Museum

Baseball is one of America’s central institutions, and it has long reflected the complicated and painful history of race in the United States. A traveling exhibition, “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience,” tells the story of black baseball players in the U.S. over the past 150 years.

The University of Memphis will display “Pride and Passion” on the second floor of the Ned R. McWherter Library Sept. 8 through Oct. 16. The exhibition features images from the permanent collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. 

Although many blacks played baseball with whites in the 19th century as amateurs and also played on minor league teams through the 1880s, black players were not allowed to compete with whites when Major League Baseball was created in the mid-1890s. To counter this discrimination, they organized teams made up entirely of black players and formed leagues that were known collectively as the Negro Leagues. The Negro Leagues had their highest level of success in the 1940s, but they continued into the 1960s. When Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, integration in baseball began a slow and uneven path to the integrated status of modern day teams, and all-black teams began to disappear.  The last one disbanded in 1961.

Through cultural timelines of American history and baseball history, visitors will be able to place the African-American baseball story into the larger context of American history and see how it intersects with events such as the Dred Scott Decision, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, passage of the 15th Amendment, Jim Crow laws, Plessy v. Ferguson, the great migration to the North, Brown v. Board of Education, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In conjunction with the “Pride and Passion” exhibit, four programs will be presented in the McWherter Library; all are free and open to the public.

Sept. 9, 12-1:30 p.m. – Larry Lester, co-founder of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum  in Kansas City, Mo., will talk about the history of African-American baseball and its meaning for African-Americans and for American society, followed by a  discussion with the audience. Lester is co-chairman of the Negro Leagues Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research.

Sept. 10, 12-1:30 p.m.– U of M professors John Haddock and Steven Ross will screen Black Diamonds, Blues City, their award-winning documentary about the Negro League’s Memphis Red Sox. Haddock, Ross and Lester will discuss the film, focusing on local teams in the Negro Leagues.

Sept. 23, 12-1:30 p.m. – Reggie Williams, vice president of community relations for the Memphis Redbirds, will show his award-winning film Memories of the Negro Leagues: A Conversation with Joe Scott, a documentary about the declining number of African-Americans playing baseball and recounting his experiences with some of the legendary Negro League players.

Oct. 8, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. – Anna Wade, director of museum education for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, will host an interactive videoconference with audience participation. The two-hour program illustrates how baseball reflected, and led, critical social shifts in American history from the time of the Civil War to the modern-day Civil Rights movement.

For more information, contact Tom Mendina at 901-678-4310 or tmendina@memphis.edu

Information also is available online at:

http://exlibris.memphis.edu/about/events/aa_baseball.html

“Pride and Passion” was organized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the American Library Association Public Programs Office in Chicago. The exhibition was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Kansas City Monarchs, 1924 courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
East Squad from 1939 East-West All Star Game, courtesy of the National
Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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