“Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience,” an exciting new traveling exhibition displayed on the Lower Level of Du Bois Library, examines the challenges faced by African-American baseball players as they sought equal opportunities in their sport beginning in the post-Civil War era. The Library is sponsoring several free programs for the public in connection with the exhibition, including an opening reception on October 25 at 4:00 p.m.
In the 1880s, more than 30 African Americans were on teams in baseball’s major and minor leagues. But opportunities diminished as Reconstruction ended and segregation became entrenched as part of American culture. During the 1887 season, league owners agreed to make no new contracts with African-American players. From that time on, 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 around 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 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 years that followed, 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 been voted into the Hall of Fame.
“We are delighted to have been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said Director of UMass Amherst Libraries Jay Schafer. “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. The Kansas City Monarchs, a Negro league team, were the first to develop a successful lighting system for night games, five years before Major League Baseball played its first night game. They carried their own generators and light stands with them on the road. The exhibition tells many more remarkable stories of players and teams who were shut out of major league baseball, but persevered in a sport they loved.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the American Library Association Public Programs Office 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 an exhibition of the same name on permanent display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The 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 and in other institutions and collections across the U.S.
Programs for the public in connection with the exhibition include:
Saturday, Oct. 13, 1:00 pm, Jones Library, Amherst: “The Mighty Jim Crow has Struck Out! The Story of How a Small New England Town Embraced the African-American Ball Player,” a talk by Dan Genovese. The author of two books about 19th century baseball in Western Massachusetts, The Old Ball Ground: The Chronological History of Westfield Baseball, Vol. 1 and The Old Ball Ground: Volume 2: Town Teams & Bush Leaguers, Genovese is captain and co-founder of the Westfield Wheelmen Vintage Base Ball Club. He is also the author of Rough House, a look at professional basketball in the early 20th century. Genovese was born in Westfield and has played all levels of baseball in Westfield from Little League to college to Vintage Base Ball. He is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). The event is co-sponsored by Jones Library and UMass Amherst.
Thursday, Oct. 25, 4:00 p.m., Lower Level, Du Bois Library, UMass Amherst: “Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game,” a talk by Rob Ruck PhD, Senior Lecturer in the History Department at the University of Pittsburgh. The event is also an opening reception for the exhibit. Ruck is the author of Sandlot Seasons: Sport in Black Pittsburg;, The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic; Rooney: A Sporting Life and the recently released Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game. His documentary work includes Kings on the Hill: Baseball’s Forgotten Men, which won an Emmy for Cultural Programming, and The Republic of Baseball: Dominican Giants of the American Game. He was on the committee that elected eighteen players from the Caribbean and the Negro Leagues to the Hall of Fame in 2006 and recently served as an advisor for Viva Beisbol, the permanent exhibit on Latinos at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Thursday, Nov. 8, 4:00 p.m., Lower Level, Du Bois Library: “Effa Manley, the First Woman Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame,” a talk by Doron Goldman. A former lecturer in the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at UMass Amherst, Doron “Duke” Goldman is currently a baseball historian and presenter as well as an elder care researcher. At UMass Amherst, Doron taught a course called “Baseball: Myths and Legends.” A longtime member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), his interests are the Negro Leagues and baseball’s integration, as well as baseball’s role in the ongoing struggle for social justice in America.
Thursday, Nov. 29, 4:00 p.m., Lower Level, Du Bois Library: “Red, Black, and Green: The Red Sox, Race and Pumpsie Green,” a talk by Rob Weir. Weir has published four books on the American labor movement: The Changing Landscape of Labor (with Michael Jacobson-Hardy); Beyond Labor's Veil: The Culture of the Knights of Labor; Knights Unhorsed: Internal Conflict in a Gilded Age Social Movement; and The Historical Encyclopedia of American Labor (with James Hanlan). Weir is a lecturer of history at UMass Amherst and has taught at Bay Path College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Mount Ida College, and was a senior Fulbright scholar in New Zealand.
The Learning Commons is open weekly from 11:00 a.m. on Sunday through 9:00 p.m. on Friday, and from 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. on Saturday. Closed on Thanksgiving Day, November 22.