Sports

History of the Negro Leagues

Written by Frank Kremer

 

If you were brought up in the modern world, then it is difficult to imagine a time when people were segregated or omitted from sports due to the color of their skin. Black athletes have had to fight throughout history to be treated as equals. One of the most significant moments in the history of sport was the now famous black power salute at the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City.

At the time, some frowned upon the actions of Tommie Smith and John, and they even received death threats for what people had seen to be unacceptable behavior. This act of courage and solidarity against inequality was a momentous part of history and helped raise awareness of the inequality across the world.

In current times, it is hard to believe that black athletes were not treated as fairly as others. There have been some legendary athletes and sports stars that have made huge contributions to changing the history of black athletes. From Jessie Owens to Cassius Clay, black athletes had to work so much harder to succeed in their sports, paving the way for subsequent generations of talented athletes.

Baseball is another game where inequality and segregation form part of its history. In 1920 by African-American baseball players set a league which became known as the Negro leagues, following on from the prejudice that many had faced. The leagues developed and continued to be an exciting level of baseball, and then in 1945, the Brooklyn Dodgers brought Jackie Robinson into Major League Baseball. He was the first African-American player to play on an MLB roster. He proved to be the breakthrough that was needed to remove the segregation in baseball and opened the gates for many more athletes to follow in Jackie’s footsteps.

While the Negro Leagues legacy reminds us of the difficult plights that were commonplace for black athletes, they were an important part of the history of the sport. If you go to Kansas City, you can visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to find out more details about the history of the leagues. There were over 30 communities that made up the leagues between 1920-1955 and they formed predominantly in the Midwest, northeast and south.

The Negro leagues were disbanded in the 1960s due to the change in culture that ensured that black players were selected for MLB. However, in recent statistics, there have been significant reductions in the number of African-American players in the MLB. This has been seen as a problem for several years now, with the percentage of players that were African-American dropping from 18% to 8.3% between 1994 and 2014. These alarming figures are prompting calls for more investment into attracting people to the game. Other arguments show that elite athletes are choosing to go into other sports that offer better financial rewards. The number is certainly declining for NBL but African-American athletes continue to dominate participation stats in the NBA and NFL.

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Frank Kremer

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