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Press Release

January 29, 2024

Contact: CJ Budy
Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center, Oklahoma Historical Society
Office: 580-237-1907

Exhibit on History of Negro Leagues Opens February 6 at Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

ENID, Okla. — On Tuesday, February 6, the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center will open the exhibit “Discover Greatness: An Illustrated History of the Negro Leagues.” It is a collection of 90 vintage photographs that tell the complex history of Negro Leagues baseball.

The interactive exhibit explores the history of Black baseball through chronological chapters. From the beginning, the leagues had their roots in racism with the so-called “gentleman’s agreement” that effectively shut Black ballplayers out of big-league competition for the first half of the 20th century.

The leagues also provided a structure for Black agency and entrepreneurship. In February 1920, African American team owners convened at a YMCA in Kansas City to form a league of their own, the Negro National League (NNL). The NNL and the other professional Black baseball leagues that followed created a forum where star players could showcase a style of speed, daring and showmanship that would come to characterize the special excitement of Negro League play.

The Negro Leagues remained a robust institution for other Black players until one of their own, the Kansas City Monarchs’ Jackie Robinson, broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Three months later, former Newark Eagles star Larry Doby integrated MLB’s American League.

The success of Robinson, Doby and other players in the majors is an undeniable turning point in the history of American race relations. It also drew the attention of Black communities away from the Negro Leagues. The leagues gradually faded away. Despite their eventual demise, the Negro Leagues defined a critical chapter of baseball’s full story, shining a bright light on scores of African American ballplayers whose greatness might have otherwise, tragically, gone undiscovered.

The exhibit will close on Sunday, April 21 – just a few days after Jackie Robinson Day. Robinson’s jersey number is the only one retired by the MLB.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, a not-for-profit organization devoted to the preservation of Negro Leagues baseball history, has organized this traveling exhibition.

For more information about the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center, please visit csrhc.org or call 580-237-1907.

The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.


Editor’s Note: Photos of the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center are available upon request.

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