Negro Leagues Baseball: A brief history

African-Americans began to play baseball in the late 1800s on military teams, college teams, and company teams.  They eventually found their way to professional teams with white players.  Moses Fleetwood Walker and Bud Fowler were among the first to participate.  However, racism and "Jim Crow" laws would force them from these teams by 1900.  Thus, black players formed their own units, "barnstorming" around the country to play anyone who would challenge them.

In 1920, an organized league structure was formed under the guidance of Andrew "Rube" Foster -- a former player, manager, and owner for the Chicago American Giants.  In a meeting held at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City, Mo., Foster and a few other Midwestern team owners joined to form the Negro National League.  Soon, rival leagues formed in Eastern and Southern states, bringing the thrills and innovative play of black baseball to major urban centers and rural areas in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America.  The Leagues maintained a high level of professional skill and became centerpieces for economic development in many black communities.

In 1945, Major League Baseball's Brooklyn Dodgers recruited Jackie Robinson from the Kansas City Monarchs.  In 1947, Robinson became the first African-American in the modern era to play on a Major League roster.

While this historic event was a key moment in baseball and civil rights history, it prompted the decline of the Negro Leagues.  The best black players were now recruited for the Major Leagues, and black fans followed.  The last Negro League teams folded in the early 1960's.

Seattle's own Negro League team, the Seattle Steelheads, is featured in this Seattle Magazine article: 

Recent article about Negro League stars on the Homestead Grays from the NY Times: NYT on Gibson - Leonard duo

Women in the Negro Leagues

As the pool of players and fans shifted to the Major Leagues from the Negro Leagues in the 1950s, efforts were made to keep black fans coming to games.  One attempt was to recruit women to play on the men's teams.  In the early 1950s three (3) women competed, primarily with the Indianapolis Clowns.

- Taken from "Negro Leagues Baseball: A brief history" in the History Resource Guide, published by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, 1616 East 18th Street, Kansas City, MO 64108 -

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