Negro leagues baseball presentation August 25
Event is part of "Shades of Greatness" exhibit at State Historical Museum

For immediate release August 13, 2007

 

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – Fascinating stories about Negro leagues baseball will be on tap when the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s Ray Doswell visits Des Moines this month.

Doswell is the NLBM’s education director and curator behind “Shades of Greatness: Art Inspired by Negro Leagues Baseball,” a traveling modern art exhibit on display at the State Historical Museum. He will recount his experiences in putting together the exhibit and will tell stories about the Negro leagues 5-7 p.m. August 25th at the State Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines’ Historic East Village. Wine and truffles will be available, and visitors will have an opportunity to meet and visit with Doswell. Admission is free.

“Shades of Greatness” has been on display in venues and museums across the country, including the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. The exhibit reflects the history, social thread and economic impact of Negro leagues baseball (1920-1960) in a mixed media presentation from paintings to sculpture.

In developing the exhibit, the NLBM – located in Kansas City – brought together a group of artists to tour the NLBM, view presentations by former players such as Buck O’Neil and read about the Negro leagues. The group of artists created the 35 pieces included in the exhibit.

The exhibit pieces are mixed media, from cubist paintings of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and James “Cool Papa” Bell to bronze sculptures of batters’ hands, including those of Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe. Some works focus on individuals, like Jackie Robinson, while others are symbolic, generic figures representing Negro league ball players and their experiences. A third group works many known figures into the same piece while giving each player equal status.

The history of African Americans playing baseball on military, college and company teams dates to the late 1800s. Eventually, they found their way to professional teams with white players. But racism and “Jim Crow” laws forced them from these teams by 1900. As a result, African American players formed their own teams, “barnstorming” across the country to play anyone who would challenge them.

In 1920, leagues were formed, bringing the thrills and innovative play of Negro leagues baseball to major urban centers and rural country sides 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 African American communities.

In 1945, Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers recruited Jackie Robinson from the Kansas City Monarchs to be the first African American to play on a Major League roster. Robinson spent the 1946 season playing for the International League’s Montreal Royals before taking Ebbets Field April 15, 1947 for the Dodgers.

The historic event was a key moment in baseball and civil rights history, but it prompted the decline of Negro leagues baseball. The best African American players were recruited for the Major Leagues, and African American fans followed. The last Negro leagues teams folded in the early 1960s, but their legacy lives on through surviving players and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

In conjunction with “Shades of Greatness,” State Historical Museum staff created an exhibit called “Black Baseball in Iowa” that explores Iowa’s connections to baseball, and includes artifacts from the museum’s collection.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is responsible for developing the state’s interest in the areas of the arts, history and other cultural matters with the advice and assistance from its two divisions: the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council. DCA preserves, researches, interprets and promotes an awareness and understanding of local, state and regional history and stimulates and encourages the study and presentation of the performing and fine arts and public interest and participation in them. It implements tourism-related art and history projects as directed by the General Assembly and designs a comprehensive, statewide, long-range plan with the assistance of the Iowa Arts Council to develop the arts in Iowa. More information about DCA is available at www.culturalaffairs.org.

 

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