In 1920, an organized league structure was formed under the guidance
of Andrew “Rube” Foster—a former player, manager, and owner for the
Chicago American Giants. In a meeting held at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City,
Mo., Foster and a few other Midwestern team owners joined to form the
Negro National League. Soon, rival leagues formed in Eastern and
Southern states, bringing the thrills and innovative play of black 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 black communities.
In 1945, Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers recruited Jackie Robinson
from the Kansas City Monarchs. Robinson now becomes the first African-American
in the modern era to play on a Major League roster.
While this historic event was a key moment in baseball and civil rights history,
it prompted the decline of the Negro Leagues. The best black players were now
recruited for the Major Leagues, and black fans followed.
The last Negro Leagues teams folded in the early 1960s, but their legacy lives on
through the surviving players and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.