Press Release - Detail
Birmingham Public Library
For release Monday, April 12, 2010
CONTACT: Linda Wilson
Staff Development Coordinator, Public Relations Department
Birmingham Public Library
Phone: (205) 226-3746
BPL Looks At Baseball History with “Pride and Passion”
Traveling Exhibition Focuses on the African American Experience in Baseball
Birmingham, Alabama—As Birmingham prepares to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Rickwood Field (the oldest surviving professional baseball park in the United States), the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is braced to open its newest exhibition. “Pride and Passion,” a traveling exhibition opening 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. The exhibition will be on display in the Library’s First Floor Gallery through June 11, 2010.
Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience, a traveling exhibition for libraries, was organized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York, and the American Library Association Public Programs Office, Chicago. The traveling exhibition has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: great ideas brought to life. The traveling exhibition is based on an exhibition of the same name on permanent display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
“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 among 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 acknowledge the home of the Birmingham Black Barons and the rich history of the team.”
The Birmingham Public Library is sponsoring several free programs and other events for the public in connection with the exhibition. For a schedule and additional information, call (205) 226-3742 or visit www.bplonline.org. The programs and events are made possible through the support and cooperation of the Negro League Association of Alabama, the Friends of Rickwood, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and the Birmingham Barons. This project is also supported by a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state program of the National Endowments for the Humanities.
A HISTORICAL REVIEW
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 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 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.
Birmingham Public Library
Pride and Passion: The African- American Baseball Experience
Public Program Schedule
May 5 12:00 PM Brown Bag Lunch Program—Pride and Passion: The African
American Baseball Experience featuring Larry Lester, Negro League scholar and co-founder of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri who will discuss the Pride and Passion exhibit and the cultural significance and legacy of the Birmingham Black Barons on the African American community in a deeply segregated society.
May 6 6:30 PM Opening Reception for Exhibition—Larry Lester, Negro League
scholar, researcher and co-founder of the Negro Leagues Baseball
Museum in Kansas City, Missouri will speak at 7 p.m.
May 8 2:30 PM Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience Saturday
Movie Series—A movie version of the story of three well-known and beloved Negro League players—Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, and Josh Gibson—as they play and fight to change the course of baseball history. Stars Blair Underwood.
May 11 6:30 PM BPL@Night--Dr. Larry Powell discusses his book Black Barons of
Birmingham: The South’s Greatest Negro League Team and its Players. Differing from other books on the subject, Dr. Powell covers the history of the Negro Leagues in general, and also provides a detailed account of the Black Barons. Members of the Negro League Baseball Players Association will attend the discussion. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
May 12 12:00 PM Brown Bag Lunch Program—Pride and Passion: The African
American Baseball Experience—Only the Ball Was White—This
documentary film pays tribute to the talent and bravery of
baseball players in the Negro Leagues. Between the years 1920
and 1947—until Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn
Dodgers—the players and teams were a source of tremendous
pride for African Americans in a deeply segregated country
and helped pave the way to integrated sports.
May 15 2:30 PM Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience Saturday
Movie Series—An in-depth and riveting documentary with first-hand accounts of what it was like to play in the Negro Leagues. Interviews with players leave viewers stunned at the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of these trailblazing baseball players.
May 19 12:00 PM Brown Bag Lunch Program—Pride and Passion: The African American
Baseball Experience—Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend. In this film, award-winning author and journalist Larry Tye untangles myth from truth about this flawed yet majestic man. The author will discuss Paige’s role in the Negro League as a self-promoter, a champion for higher pay for his teammates, as a bit of a subversive, and as a sometimes overlooked key player in the integration of baseball.
May 22 2:30 PM Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience Saturday
Movie Series—A sly and humorous take on a team in the Negro Leagues as it barnstormed the mid-west in the 1930’s in hopes of overcoming its tyrannical team owner. Stars Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, and Richard Pryor.
May 26 12:00 PM Brown Bag Lunch Program—Pride and Passion: The African American
Baseball Experience—The Real Life and Times in the Negro Leagues, A Panel Discussion. What was life really like on the road and at home for the Negro League player? Find out first-hand when we hear from the players themselves. More to follow on this!
June 2 12:00 PM Brown Bag Lunch Program—Pride and Passion: The African American
Baseball Experience—Negro League Baseball and the Black Community—Dr. Richard Megraw, University of Alabama American Studies professor, will discuss the Negro Leagues and their importance in the formation of African American identity and the civil rights struggle.
June 5 2:30 PM Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience Saturday
Movie Series—James Earl Jones narrates this award winning documentary highlighting some of the greatest players in the history of Negro League baseball. Showcases the players’ technical expertise and shows great sensitivity to the subject matter. Includes interviews with Cool Papa Bell, Jimmie Crutchfield, and Ted Page.
June 9 12:00 PM Brown Bag Lunch Program—Pride and Passion: The African American
Baseball Experience—Live from Cooperstown! Never been to Cooperstown? Now is your chance to take a virtual tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Via live teleconference with staff from Cooperstown, we will tour the permanent Pride and Passion exhibit at the Hall of Fame. Don’t miss this virtual trip!