In 1867, the National Association of Amateur Baseball Players rejected Black players, fearing they’d steal the spotlight from white league members! So where could Black players compete?
Instead of begging to be accepted, Black athletes started their own teams! By the early 1900s, more than 200 independent Black teams sprang up across America and, led by Andrew “Rube” Foster, created the Negro National League (NNL) in 1920.
Occasionally Black players, like catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker, would do stints for the white Major Leagues, but it was the NNL that provided Black players meaningful careers.
As the league gained popularity, financial strains forced the new owner, Gus Greenlee, to introduce a brilliantly successful marketing strategy. He organized the annual East-West All-Star Game held in Chicago, which became the hottest sports event of the 1930s and 40s!
The league thrived until 1946, when players like Jackie Robinson were selected from the top Black teams to integrate the Major Leagues. Unfortunately, after integration the NNL became less relevant and officially ended in 1950.
The NNL used innovative strategies to combat racial prejudice. Like the league members, we can exist outside of white supremacy when we innovatively create spaces for our community to thrive in. We don’t need to beg for inclusion – we can do it ourselves, and better!