Friday, January 20, 2006

Negro Leagues Museum 'portrays both the shame and the glory of an uncomfortable period of American history'

DeWitt Era-Enterprise | by C. F. Scott

Museums are wonderful places. They can show all kinds of things, from triumph (the World War II Museum) to shame (The U.S. Holocaust Museum). It is a rare museum that can provide glimpses into both.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, which I visited in December, manages to portray both the shame and the glory of an uncomfortable period of American history.

Negroes were freed from slavery by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865, and guaranteed equal rights by the 14th Amendment in 1868. However, it didn’t always work that way. After the end of Reconstruction in 1877, blacks were increasingly banned from participation in mainstream institutions of American life.

One of those institutions was baseball, which in the late 19th century was rapidly becoming “America’s Pastime.” Negro players were part of professional baseball from the beginning, and Moses Fleetwood Walker; his brother, Weldy Wilberforce Walker; and Frank Grant were sufficiently talented to play in the International League, then considered a “major” league, in 1887.

But many white players, especially Adrian “Cap” Anson, one of the top stars of the time, were sufficiently prejudiced to resent the ability of the black players. When Anson demanded that professional baseball “get that n***** off the field,” his colleagues agreed. . . [more]

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