Out of the Shadows
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City is the centerpiece of historical renaissance of Negro Leagues Baseball throughout the nation. The exhibit chronicles the history of the Negro Leagues from after the Civil War through the 1960s. It recalls the contributions the leagues made to the history of athletics, as well as their contributions to the Civil Rights movement and American history.
The Negro Leagues’ Kansas City connection began in 1920, when Rube Foster, owner of the Chicago American Giants organized a meeting in Kansas City that resulted in the formation of the Negro National League. Their motto, "We are the ship, all else the sea," illustrated the relationship at the time with Major League Baseball. In Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Atlanta, Washington, Detroit, New York, Cleveland and Philadelphia Negro Leagues games were some of the hottest tickets in town, drawing more than 50,000 spectators to the games.
When Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the color barrier in baseball fell, signaling the end of the Negro Leagues. Baseball greats such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, and Roy Campanella made the transition to Major League Baseball, leaving an indelible mark on the game.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City’s 18th and Vine historic district, recreates the look, sound and feel of baseball in the height of the Negro Leagues. A photo gallery captures the earliest days of both integrated and then segregated play. Authentic recreations of uniforms and a multi-screen video presentation in which former players talk about what it was like to play in the Negro Leagues are part of the museum.
The Kauffman Foundation’s contribution to start the oral history project captures the stories of passion and perseverance that brought black ball players out of the shadows to redefine the game of baseball and change America. Our grant provides modest support for an important historical institution in our city, and honors our founder’s love of baseball and the sport’s rich history.