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Eric Carle Museum Showcases the History of the Negro Baseball League

AMHERST, Mass (WGGB) — February is Black History Month, and to help celebrate, the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst is celebrating the old Negro Leagues through art.

An exhibit entitled, ‘We are the Ship, The Story of Negro League Baseball’, offers an understanding and appreciation for the lost hero’s of our National Pastime.

“In celebration of Black History Month here we’re honoring a pioneer who helped set forth a climate in our country of inclusiveness,” said Billy McBride, an Associate Athlete Director for Diversity and Inclusion at Amherst College.

Jackie Roosevelt Robinson.  No ball player, black or white, has had a more profound effect on our view of the game of baseball.

We are all prone to lionize our historical figures.  Add the national pastime to the mix, and these old stars from the Negro Leagues become even larger than life itself.

Names like Josh Gibson and James ‘Cool Papa’ Bell, teams like the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays, all part of the fabric of the old Negro Leagues that flourished in the United States in the early part of the 20th Century.

“You look around here and look at these oils and paintings,” said McBride.   “And you recognize that the pioneers before Jackie Robinson were great.”

Kadir Nelso’s exhibit brings these famous and not so famous names to life.  Thirty three paintings and 13 sketches in all, the exhibition brings Black History Month to life.  McBride, a self described art enthusiast, says the paintings elicit an appreciation for art, and offer a teaching moment for those in today’s society.

“If you don’t know your past you can’t set the course on where you want to go in the future,” said McBride.    “I can appreciate how he captured the essence of our history, of things that went before that a lot of the time you simply don’t know.  And you don’t know unless you avail yourself to want to know different things that happened in our country.   And there is a history, there is a strong history of Black Americans, of African Americans in this country who have done great things.  But a lot of our children and a lot of our colleagues don’t know.”

Touring the Negro League exhibit you find story after story.  A summer afternoon riding the bus.  The umpires keen eye and forceful disposition, and did you know that the Negro Leagues were the first to play baseball games at night?  History and emotion on canvas.

The Negro LEague art exhibit will continue at the Eric Carle Museum through June 10th.  On April 1st the artist, Kadir Nelson, and Jackie Robinson’s daughter Sharon Robinson, will be at the Eric Carle Museum.

They’ll spend the day talking about the exhibit, and to tell the stories of the old Negro Leagues.


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