I didn’t want them to forget Babe Ruth; but I also didn’t want them to forget Hank Aaron.— Hank Aaron • Hall of Fame Class of 1982
The Black Baseball Initiative
Honoring and Celebrating the History of Black Baseball
Black Baseball Initiative brings youth groups to Cooperstown
A Story that impacts us all
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has launched one of the largest initiatives in the institution’s history. The Black Baseball Initiative will inspire people through the stories of those who overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges to play the game they loved. The project includes a new permanent exhibit, The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball, which will open in the spring of 2024, and programs that are expanding our reach to communities across the country. The exhibit is made possible by the Yawkey Foundation with additional support from Bill Janetschek in honor of his siblings Robert and Ann, the Anthony A. Yoseloff Foundation and the Bisignano Family. The new exhibit will be in the Yawkey Gallery.
Rob Tringali/MLB Photos
More Than an Exhibit
The groundbreaking new exhibition, The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball, will replace Ideals and Injustices, the Museum’s current exhibit about the history of Black baseball. Originally titled Pride and Passion, it opened in 1997 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson integrating the white major leagues.
From the decades-long history of Black baseball prior to the formation of the Negro Leagues, through the complexities of baseball’s re-integration, to the challenges that remain today, The Souls of the Game will reveal the deep connections between baseball and Black America.
More importantly, and perhaps more impactful, are the outreach programs that are part of this initiative, including a new website to deliver the story of Black baseball and its role in the Civil Rights movement to fifth through eighth graders, virtual programs, grants to fund in-person visits for budget-challenged schools in our region, educational materials that can be delivered to teachers in schools outside of our region and community programs.
And we will do all of this while celebrating Black culture through the lens of our great game.
In addition to our talented staff, we have assembled a group of respected outside experts to help us with this project, with Gerald Early, Leslie Heaphy, Larry Lester, Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Rob Ruck serving as curatorial consultants.
Our Advisory Committee includes revered baseball legends such as Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr., Andre Dawson, Fergie Jenkins, Barry Larkin, Tim Raines and Dave Winfield, in addition to executives, former players and veteran members of the media like Tony Clark, Dave Stewart, Claire Smith and Tony Reagins, and respected museum professionals from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, among others.
A More Inclusive Story
This initiative will tell a more inclusive story, reflecting the evolving diversity of the game. It will show that Black baseball was the creation of Black America and explore the deep connections between Black baseball and the Black community. Visitors will come away with a richer, deeper understanding of race and racism in baseball. The project will provide a cohesive narrative of Black baseball’s history and an exploration of the complicated relationship with baseball that Black people experienced in working for American democracy and citizenship through the game.
We are working with current and former Black ballplayers as well as experts in Black baseball history to delve into topics that include the segregation faced by generations of ballplayers, how segregation was sustained, the challenges that persist in the game today and the tremendous success of the most recent generation of Black baseball players, coaches and executives.
- We are launching a program to fund visits of students from underprivileged communities in our region to come to Cooperstown and participate in our education programs in person.
- We are creating a website targeted at students that includes a fully immersive delivery of our educational materials related to the Black baseball experience and Civil Rights, allowing us to reach students who cannot come to Cooperstown.
- We are hosting virtual and in-person events to share the stories of Black baseball.
In the Museum
We are creating a new permanent exhibit, The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball, to open in the spring of 2024.
- We are updating existing Museum exhibits to include more stories about the Black baseball experience.
Baseball and Civil Rights
Many of American history’s watershed moments, both on and off the field, illustrate how baseball was – and is – a part of our collective lives.
Racism is not what it was a half–century ago, but it is still present. Sports can continue to be at the forefront of progress.— Adam Jones • Five-Time Major League All-Star
From the Collection
Adam Jones wore these cleats on April 15, 2018, to honor Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King Jr. The shoes feature the date of Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers debut (April 15, 1947) and King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech (August 28, 1963).
Kids are our future, and we hope baseball has given them some idea of what it is to live together and how we can get along, whether you be Black or white.— Larry Doby • Hall of Fame Class of 1998
Learning from History
Stories that highlight the lives and experiences of Black ballplayers through key moments in history, artifacts and baseball cards.
Heroes of Black Baseball
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali once called Hank Aaron “The only man I idolize more than myself. ” For many, Aaron was everything an athlete – and a human being – should be.
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives,” Jackie Robinson once said. The impact Robinson made on Major League Baseball is one that will be forever remembered.
Learn More about the Initiative
Meet the Team
Meet the Curatorial Consultants and the members of the Advisory Committee who are helping to guide the initiative.
The New Exhibit
The exhibit will tell a more inclusive story, reflecting the evolving diversity of the game, providing visitors with a richer, deeper understanding of race and racism in baseball.
Education and Outreach
The initiative includes outreach programs designed to create positive impacts in communities throughout the country with new online tools, virtual and community programs, educational materials and grants to fund in-person visits.
How to Help
Will you consider helping support this important initiative with a gift today?