Traveling Exhibition Tells the Story of Negro League Baseball

A traveling exhibition called the “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience,” is opening at the Harper Woods Public Library on Friday, October 15 and it will run until December 3. The exhibit, organized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the American Library Association examines the challenges faced by African-American baseball players as they sought equal opportunities in their sport beginning in the post-Civil War era.

According to exhibit promotional materials:

“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.

Satchel Paige then of the Kansas City Monarchs at Briggs Stadium.

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.”

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.

The library is also sponsoring free programs for the public in connection with the exhibition. Call (313) 343-2575 or visit for more information.

The following is a lineup of the free events:

Grand Opening with keynote speaker Dr. Geri Strecker
Friday, October 15, 2010 7PM

(Dr. Strecker is an assistant professor of English at Ball State University with an interest in African-American literature and a broad knowledge of the Negro Leagues. She is copy editor for the academic journal Black Ball and author of a biography of Oscar Charleston, who is featured in the Pride & Passion exhibit.)

Author Visit: Tom Stanton
Monday, October 18, 2010
7:00 p.m.

Stanton, is the author of The Home Run That Changed America, Books will be available for purchase and signing.

A Night with Willie Horton
Monday, October 25, 2010
7:00 p.m.

The Tiger great will speak and autograph his biography “The People’s Champion: Willie Horton and it will be available for purchase.

Family Night with Jackie Robinson
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
7:00 p.m.

Jackie Robinson will be portrayed by Greg Kenney, of Educate Us Productions.

A History of the Negro Leagues with Larry Lester
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
7:00 p.m.

Author Visit: Phil Dixon
Monday, November 8
7:00 p.m.

Dixon will be talking about his books Wilber “Bullet” Rogan and the Kansas City Monarchs and Andrew “Rube” Foster, A Harvest on Freedom’s Fields.

Documentary Viewing: Only the Ball was White
Thursday, November 18
1:00 p.m.

The seminal documentary on the Negro Baseball Leagues originally broadcast on PBS.

Former Detroit Tiger Ike Blessitt, and Gary Gillette
Saturday, November 20
2:00 p.m.

Detroiter Ike Blessitt played four games with the Tigers in 1972 and then in Mexico for 20 years. He will share his experiences as a black player and talk about his dream of giving African-American children of Detroit more opportunities to learn and excel at the game he loves.

Gary Gillette is the chair of the Detroit chapter of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research). He will talk about the efforts to save Hamtramck Stadium, home to the Detroit Stars.