The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has been added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, just in time for Black History Month. The museum, which is located in Kansas City, Missouri, is dedicated to explaining how the leagues were formed and the role they played in social advancement in the United States.
“We are deeply honored to be part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail,” Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, told TravelAwaits. “The Negro Leagues played a tremendous role in the social advancement of America. Our inclusion to the trail will undoubtedly help more people understand that the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a civil rights and social justice institution that documents a powerful story of triumph over adversity as seen through the lens of baseball.”
The U.S. Civil Rights Trail is a network that includes stops at churches, courthouses, schools, museums, and other landmarks where activists dedicated to advancing social justice that challenged segregation in the 1950s and 1960s.
Some of those locations are schools that represent the end of racial segregation in public education; F.W. Woolworth lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee, where Black college students staged sit-ins as a form of nonviolent demonstrations; and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace and gravesite in Atlanta, his first church in Montgomery, Alabama, and the church in Memphis where King gave his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech the night before he was assassinated.
“The fight for racial equality in our country has taken on many forms, including marches, conflicts, and court cases,” Stephen Foutes, director of the Missouri Division of Tourism, told TravelAwaits. “The inclusion of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum adds yet another layer to the history that is preserved by the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.”
Negro League Baseball
Black Americans had baseball teams in the early 1900s but the Negro National League wasn’t formed until February 13, 1920, in Kansas City.
“Negro League Baseball remained wildly popular through the 1930s and early 1940s, with an estimated 3 million fans coming to ballparks during the ’42 season,” Major League Baseball explains.
“The only event that halted the Negro Leagues’ run of success was something many Black players had desired all along: An invitation to prove themselves in the Majors,” Major League Baseball explains. “The death of Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis — one of the major figures who kept Black players out of MLB for decades — in 1944 opened a new chapter.”
First, in 1947, Negro League star Jackie Robinson made his historic debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Next, Black stars Larry Doby and Satchel Paige made their way to the Majors.
“The Negro Leagues dissolved soon after that as more and more of its most-talented stars were finally admitted into MLB,” Major League Baseball explains.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) opened in 1991 in a one-room office space in Kansas City. Then, in 1997, under the leadership of its chairman, John “Buck” O’Neil, the museum moved into its current 10,000-square-foot section of a cultural complex called the Museums at 18th & Vine in Kansas City.
By the way, O’Neil, a 2022 inductee in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was the first Black coach in Major League Baseball.
“The NLBM has welcomed more than 2-million visitors and has become one of the most important cultural institutions in the world for its work to give voice to a once forgotten chapter of baseball and American history,” NLBM explains. “In July of 2006, the NLBM gained National Designation from the United States Congress earning the distinction of being ‘America’s National Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.’”
Know Before You Go
The NLBM is a self-guided tour experience, so you can work your way through it at your own pace. Along the way, you’ll see artifacts, photographs, text panels, and even film exhibits that combine a timeline of baseball and African American history.