Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. David Bovee
In the 1870s and early 1880s, almost seventy African American men played for white owned ball clubs. By 1890, White owners reached an unwritten agreement to prevent African Americans from playing with white baseball players. Not until April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers did a black baseball player play professionally with white players. It took the general manager of the Dodgers, Branch Ricky, almost a decade to get Robinson in a big league uniform. This meant for nearly sixty years, African Americans had to play separately. Before the creation of the Negro National League (NNL) in 1920, a few black businessmen attempted to create a baseball league for the country’s black population. In 1910, Beauregard Mosley sought to create the National Negro Baseball League (NNBL) with franchises in cities like Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. The league would divide profits by giving the winner fifty percent, the loser thirty percent, and the owners twenty percent of the ticket sales. The league would employ its own umpires, with African Americans making up fifty percent. However, the NNBL never played a game. For the NNL, almost none of the owners found anyone willing to back a professional black league. The NNL had sparse attendance was sparse in many of the cities and advertising was difficult to obtain for black teams. Since many of the stadiums sat in dangerous parts of town, fewer people came out to watch games. The Kansas City Monarchs became the exception for league teams. They tended to draw more than any other NNL team, and often outsold white baseball games in the region. Several times clubs appeared and disappeared within a year. In Cleveland, between 1922 and 1933, they had seven different clubs in the NNL. Since owners often underpaid players, teams lost players every year. Players went to the team offered them the most money. This movement of players meant teams could fold because they could not field a proper club. This era was the golden age of barnstorming teams. Since the Depression left many in the cities without disposable incomes, black teams took to the road. Only the state of Kansas allowed games between blacks and whites in the 1920s and 1930s. These tours included teams such as the Kansas City Monarchs and the Kansas City Colored Clowns, to teams referred to as only the “colored boys.” Baseball teams traveled all across the state to play. Kansas even allowed interracial games and eventually an interracial team well before the rest of the country. Many Kansas demonstrated more progressive attitudes with regards to race relations, though segregation and racial animosity still played a daily role in black players’ lives.
Kutilek, Maxwell, "Banned, Black, And Barnstorming:
How Traveling Black Teams In The
Great Depression Changed Kansas" (2017). Master's Theses. 9.
© 2017 Maxwell Kutilek