Thursday, December 17, 2020
Statement on Major League Baseball’s Decision Regarding the Negro Leagues
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center applauds Major League Baseball’s and Commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision to officially include the Negro Leagues in its stat and record books. Now, after nearly a century, these men will be what they always knew themselves to be: major leaguers.
Baseball has long been called America’s pastime and, like the nation who so loves it, bore the ugly prejudices that systematically excluded certain individuals. The exclusion of Blacks from Major League Baseball was never because they lacked the talent or toughness to compete, but because their fellow countrymen lacked the empathy and humanity to see them as equal.
Of course these men need no validation. They were and remain among the most talented and accomplished athletes in baseball history. We know some of their names – Satchel Paige, Smokey Joe Robinson, Roy Campanella and, of course, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson. Others we may be hearing for the first time – Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson and many, many more. Long before they had the right to do so, these men were major leaguers. When Jackie Robinson officially broke the color barrier in 1947, he did it on the strength and support of his Black brothers in the Negro Leagues.
We celebrate this decision by Major League Baseball not only because it helps our nation right an injustice, but because it helps us recognize Black voices and Black excellence as equal.
Woodrow Keown, Jr.
President & COO
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center