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Negro Leagues

The Trillion Dollar African American Consumer Market: Economic Empowerment or Economic Dependency?

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
Sometime in 2013, the African American consumer market exceeded the trillion dollar mark for the first time.  To put this figure in perspective, that market is larger than the market for the entire nation of Spain.  In the article below business historian Robert Weems briefly describes rise of African American purchasing power since the end of slavery and what it means for both black Americans and the entire economy.

Collective African American net income (spending power) now exceeds $1 trillion dollars annually. Because of this economic reality, a wide variety of contemporary companies continually create marketing campaigns to effectively reach this important segment of the U.S. consumer market. Yet, in the not-too-distant past, black consumers were all but ignored in the American marketplace.  This article will provide an overview of this historical (and business) phenomenon.

Summary: 
Sometime in 2013, the African American consumer market exceeded the trillion dollar mark for the first time.  To put this figure in perspective, that market is larger than the market for the entire nation of Spain.  In the article below business historian Robert Weems briefly describes rise of African American purchasing power since the end of slavery and what it means for both black Americans and the entire economy.
Sources: 
Robert E. Weems, Jr., Desegregating the Dollar: African American Consumerism in the Twentieth Century (New York: New York University Press, 1998); Resilient, Receptive and Relevant: The African American Consumer, 2013 Report (New York: The Nielson Company, 2013).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Wichita State University

Foster, Andrew "Rube" (1879-1930)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Andrew Rube Foster was born in Calvert, Texas, on September 17, 1879.  The son of Andrew and Sarah Foster, Rube started a baseball tradition that would be followed by his brother Willie Bill Foster.  Rube quit school after the eighth grade, barnstorming with the Waco Yellow Jackets, an independent black team in 1897.  By 1902, Rube’s baseball abilities gave him an opportunity to play with the Chicago (Illinois) Union Giants.  After a short stint with Union Giants, Rube played for the Cuban X-Giants.  In 1903, Rube Foster was the top pitcher in black baseball, and was the pitcher of record as the Cuban X-Giants won the Black World Series.  Rube sometimes played with white semi-pro teams and exhibition games against white players. Rube established himself as the premier pitcher challenging major league pitchers such as Rube Waddell, Chief Bender, Mordecai Brown, and Cy Young.  Honus Wagner stated that Rube Foster was one of the greatest pitchers of all times and one of the smartest pitchers he had ever seen.

Sources: 
Robert Charles Cottrell, The Best Pitcher in Baseball: The Life of Rube Foster, Negro League Giant (New York: New York University Press, 1970).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Augusta State University

Bell, James ["Cool Papa"] (1903-1991)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

James Thomas Bell was born May 17, 1903, in Starkville, Mississippi. Playing baseball as a 19 year-old rookie Bell earned the nickname “Cool Papa” after proving to his older teammates that he was not intimidated by playing professionally in front of large crowds. Signing with the St. Louis Stars in 1922, Bell entered professional baseball as a pitcher, reportedly throwing a wicked curveball and fade-away knuckleball.

The speed of Bell would become apparent when he beat the Chicago American Giants Jimmy Lyons in a race for the title of “fastest man in the league.” He immediately switched to center field, where he would play shallow and always manage to run down long hits. Bell stayed with the Stars until 1930 when the league disbanded, and led them to league titles in 1928 and 1930.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Neil, John Jordan "Buck" (1911-2006)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil was born November 13, 1911, in Carrabelle, Florida.  Working with his father on a Florida celery farm when he was 13, the young O’Neil said to himself, “Damn. There’s got to be something better than this.” After traveling to West Palm Beach to see Rube Foster’s baseball team at the Royal Poinciana Hotel, O’Neil decided baseball was going to be his way out.

O’Neil’s professional baseball career in the National Negro League began in 1937 with a short stint with the Memphis Red Sox. Later that season O’Neil signed with the Kansas City Monarchs, where he spent the rest of his playing career. In 1942, O’Neil led the Monarchs in a four-game sweep of the Homestead Grays in the league championship, batting with a .353 average. In two different seasons, 1940 and 1946, O’Neil won the league batting title, hitting .345 and .350.

In 1948, O’Neil replaced Frank Duncan as manager of the Kansas City Monarchs. As a manager and scout, O’Neil sent more African Americans to the Major Leagues in his career than any other individual, including future Hall-of-Famers like Ernie Banks and Lou Brock. O’Neil was renowned for his knowledge of the game, but also for his leadership of younger players, and he never lost a contest when selected to manage a team in the All-Star games of 1950, 1953, 1954, and 1955.

Sources: 
Ken Burns, Baseball. PBS Interview, http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/baseball/shadowball/oneil.html
Kansas City Star, Special Collection—Buck O’Neil, http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/special_packages/oneil/ Negro League Baseball Museum, http://nlbm.com/ ; Negro League Baseball Players Association, http://www.nlbpa.com/o_neil__john_jordan_-_buck.html
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lloyd, John Henry "Pop" (1884-1965)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

John Henry "Pop" Lloyd was born April 25, 1884, in Palatka, Florida. Reportedly discovered by baseball legend Rube Foster, Lloyd would begin his professional career with the Cuban X-Giants, where fans would give him the nickname “El Cuchara” (“The Shovel”) due to his steady hands and ability to grab any ground ball coming at him. His tremendous play at shortstop would be matched by only one other player, Hall-of-Famer Honus Wagner, who declared “it is a privilege to have been compared to him.”

Beginning play in America in 1910 for Fosters Chicago Leland Giants, Lloyd was an amazing all-around player. On offense in the “deadball” era of baseball, Lloyd hit with skilled accuracy, but could deliver power when needed. On defense, Lloyd was the most dominating shortstop in the Negro Leagues, whose quickness and intensity could not be matched.    

In 1918 Lloyd became player-manager of the Brooklyn Royal Giants, and spent the next few years jumping around teams until settling with the Hilldale Daisies in 1922. The next year Lloyd batted a sensational .418 and lead Hilldale to the inaugural pennant of the Eastern Colored League. He would move after that season, however, to the Bacharach Giants due to reported disputes with management.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Gibson, Joshua ["Josh"] (1911-1947)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Josh Gibson was born in Buena Vista, Georgia, on December 21, 1911. He moved to Pittsburgh in 1924 when his father found work in a steel mill.  He played baseball for company teams in the area but began his career with the Negro League when he signed with the Pittsburgh Crawfords. He played for the Crawfords from 1927 to 1929 and from 1932 to 1936.  In an era of segregation, Josh Gibson was known as the “Black Babe Ruth.”  Josh gained legendary status during his lifetime by regularly hitting baseballs 500 feet or more.  He is credited with hitting almost 800 homeruns in his 17 year baseball career with a lifetime batting average of at least .350.  No one else in the Negro Baseball League had a higher batting average and slugging percentage.

Sources: 
Mark Ribowsky, Josh Gibson: The Power and Darkness (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Augusta State University

Paige, Leroy Robert "Satchel (1906-1982)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Sources: 
Leroy “Satchel” Paige and David Lipman, Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever: A Great Baseball Player Tells the Hilarious Story Behind the Legend (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993); Donald Spivey, “If You Were Only White: The Life of Leroy “Satchel” Paige (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2012), Larry Tye, Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend (New York: Random House, 2009), and William Price Fox, Satchel Paige’s America (New York: Fire Ant Books, 2005);.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Augusta State University

Mays, Willie (1931- )

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Willie Howard Mays Jr. was born May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama to Ann and William Howard Mays.  Both of his parents had been athletes.  Ann Mays was a high school track star while William Howard Mays had played semi-professional baseball in Birmingham’s Industrial League before becoming a steel mill worker and Pullman Porter.  Willie Mays Jr., loved baseball and by the time he was 14 he was playing on his father’s semi-pro club, the Fairfield Gray Sox.  At 16 Mays began his professional career with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Southern League.  Although he had become a professional, his father insisted he only play on weekends while school was in session.

The New York Giants noted Mays’s athletic ability and offered him a contract while he was still in high school.  He began playing with the Giants in 1951 at the age of 20.  During his first year in Major League Baseball Mays won Rookie of the Year honors. Mays excelled at every aspect of baseball; he hit for both power and accuracy, had great speed, a strong throwing arm, and perfect defense in the outfield. He is the only outfielder ever with more than 7,000 putouts. When asked if he ever misjudged a fly ball, Mays replied that he “missed two fly balls. Ten years apart.”
Sources: 

Willie Mays with Lou Sahadi, Say Hey: The Autobiography of Willie Mays (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988); Baseball Hall of Fame, http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/mays_willie.htm; Academy of Achievement, http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/may0bio-1; Larry Schwartz, “Mays brought joy to baseball” http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016223.html.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Negro Baseball Leagues (1920-1950)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Negro Baseball League All-Stars, Comiskey Park, Chicago, 1939
Image Courtesy of Center for Negro League Baseball Research

Baseball was originally played by men in rival athletic clubs for recreation.  After the Civil War in 1865, baseball’s popularity increased dramatically.  At this early time it was still an amateur sport that attracted all races.  There were all-white and all-black teams as well as some integrated teams.  The integrated teams were abolished when, on December 11, 1868, black ballplayers were barred from participation by the National Association of Baseball Players.  The association’s governing body voted unanimously to forbid any club which was composed of one or more people of color from participating.

Sources: 
Donn Rogosin, Invisible Men: Life in Baseball's Negro Leagues (New York : Athenaeum, 1983)  Pat McKissack and Frederick McKissack, Jr., Black Diamond : The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues (New York: Scholastic, 1994) Bill L. Weaver, “The Black Press and the Assault on Professional Baseball's ‘Color Line,’ October, 1945-April, 1947.” Phylon 40.4 (1979): 303-317
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Fowler, John W. “Bud” (1858-1913)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born John W. Jackson, in Fort Plain, New York, on March 16, 1858, Fowler spent much of his boyhood in Cooperstown, N.Y. where organized baseball maintains its Hall of Fame and museum. Coincidentally Fowler is argued to be one of the first professional black baseball players, when in 1872 he joined a white team in New Castle, Pennsylvania for a salary.  For the next two and a half decades, Fowler played across the country where black players were allowed to play, from Massachusetts to Colorado and briefly in Canada. He played in crossroad farm towns and in mining camps, in pioneer Western settlements and in larger Eastern cities.  Like many ball players of his day, Fowler could play most any position, but it was as a second baseman and pitcher where he excelled at best.  His habit of calling teammates and other players “Bud” led to his nickname.

Organized baseball was just being structured during the turn of the century and Fowler was one of sixty black players who played in white leagues across the country. In the early days of baseball there was no official color line, and he played in organized baseball with white ball clubs until the color line became entrenched around 1900. Until 1895 Fowler he was usually the only black player on an all-white team.
Sources: 
Ralph J. Christian, “Bud Fowler: The First African American Professional Baseball Payer and the 1885 Keokuks,” Iowa Heritage Illustrated 87:1 (2006); Robert Peterson, Only the Ball Was White (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Williams, Smokey Joe (1886-1946)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born Joseph Williams in Sequin, Texas on April 6, 1886, Smokey Joe Williams (also known as Cyclone Joe Williams) has been argued to be one of the greatest of the black baseball pitchers. In 1952, when the Pittsburgh Courier asked a panel of black veterans and sports writers to name the best black pitcher of all time, Smokey Joe Williams was the winner 20-19, over Satchel Paige. He stood 6’ 5” with a variety of power pitches but was best known for his fastball. He began to pitch around the San Antonio region in 1905 and compiled a record of 28-4. In 1907, he played for the San Antonio Broncos as a pitcher-outfielder, winning 20 and losing 8. In 1909, when Rube Foster, “The Father of Black Baseball,” brought his Leland Giants through San Antonio, he saw Williams pitch against Foster’s team and was amazed at his arresting speed, Williams and his team beat the Giants 3-0. When the Giants left, they took Williams north with them.

On October 24, 1912, Williams faced the National League champion New York Giants in an exhibition game. The Giants were coming off from a World Series loss against the Boston Red Sox. Williams shut out the Giants with only four hits for a 6-0 victory. By 1913, Williams won four and lost one against the white big leaguers.  At a time when professional baseball was not integrated and black teams were considered semi-pro, the victory over the Giants gave Williams and his team considerable national exposure.
Sources: 
John B. Holway, Negro League Pioneers (Connecticut: Meckler Books, 1988); Robert Peterson, Only the Ball was White (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970); Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982)
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Ritchey, John Franklin (1923-2003)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Courtesy of Amy Essington"

John Ritchey integrated the Pacific Coast League, the AAA-level minor baseball league on the West Coast, when he played as a San Diego Padre in 1948. The second-generation baseball player was born in 1923, in San Diego, California and was the youngest of nine children. His father William played catcher and managed the San Diego Giants, a local African American team for which John served as batboy.

Ritchey played baseball at Memorial Junior High School and San Diego High School as an outfielder and then catcher. He also played on a local team for the American Legion, a youth baseball program. In 1938, the San Diego team went to the American Legion tournament finals in South Carolina. Tournament officials did not allow Ritchey and another black teammate, Nelson Manuel, to play. In 1941, the San Diego team returned to the finals, this time in North Carolina. Ritchey and Manual played in the semi-finals, integrating the league, but again officials prevented the pair from playing in the finals. After graduating from San Diego High School in 1941, Ritchey began his studies at San Diego State College.

Sources: 

Essington, Amy “Segregation, Race, and Baseball: The Integration of the Pacific Coast League, 1948-1952,” (PhD diss, Claremont Graduate University, 2009).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Manley, Effa (1900-1981)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Abe and Effa Manley
Image Courtesy of Negro Leagues
Baseball  Museum

Born in 1900, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Effa Brooks began her life in controversy. Her mother, Bertha Brooks, a white woman married to Benjamin Brooks, a black man, claimed Effa resulted from an affair with her white employer, John Bishop. There is no other evidence to corroborate Effa’s paternity, however, Benjamin Brooks filed and prevailed in a lawsuit against John Bishop for alienation of his wife’s affections. Effa, believed her mother’s claim and noted Bishop as her father throughout the duration of her life.

Growing up with her biracial siblings and a black stepfather, Effa Manley continually walked the line between black and white. Sometimes defined by others as black, sometimes as white, Effa used her ambiguous status to her advantage. As a young adult she worked, as a white woman, in a department store in New York City, though she lived in predominantly black neighborhoods and married black men.

Her second marriage of four was the lengthiest. Abraham Manley, whom she met at the 1932 World Series, was a “numbers banker” and at least fifteen years her senior. They remained married until Abraham’s death in 1952.

Sources: 

Amy Essington, “‘She Loved Baseball’: Effa Manley and the Negro Leagues,” Chap. in Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001), 275-295; James Overmyer, Queen of the Negro Leagues: Effa Manley and the Newark Eagles, (Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, 1998).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
California State University, Long Beach

Homestead Grays (1912-1950)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History

Homestead Grays (1912-1950<div class=

Sources: 

Brad Snyder, Beyond the Shadow of the Senators: The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2003); James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994): http://www.nlbpa.com/homestead_grays.html

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Banks, Ernest “Ernie” (1931-2015)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Image Courtesy of Dave's Dougout, Inc.
Ernest “Ernie” Banks was the first African American baseball player for the Chicago (Illinois) Cubs and the first African American manager in Major League Baseball (MLB). Banks earned the nickname “Mr. Cub” while playing shortstop and first base from 1953-1971 for the team.
Sources: 

Lew Freedman, African American Pioneers of Baseball (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007); Alan Ross, Cubs Pride: For the Love of Ernie, Fergie & Wrigley (Nashville, TV: Cumberland House, 2005); "'Mr Cub' Ernie Banks Dies at 83,"  CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/23/us/ernie-banks-obit/.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

New York Black Yankees (1932-1948)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
Image Ownership: Public Domain
The New York Black Yankees was a baseball team active in the Negro Leagues from 1931 to 1948. For most of their career the Black Yankees played their home games at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York, although the 1938 season saw the team playing their home games at New York's Triborough Stadium. The Black Yankees sent a succession of players to the Negro National Baseball League East-West All-Star Game from 1937 to 1942 and again in 1947 and 1948. However, while they enjoyed good attendance at home games, individual player success and its fortunes as a team were less impressive. In its 13 NNL seasons the team finished in last place ten times.

The New York Black Yankees were founded in Harlem as the Harlem Black Bombers in 1931 by the famous dancer and Hollywood actor, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and financier James “Soldier Boy” Semler.  Although they were founded in 1931, they adopted the name, Black Yankees in 1936 when they were officially identified as Harlem’s team even if they did not play physically in that black community. 
Sources: 
Robert W. Peterson, Only the Ball Was White (New York: Prentice-Hall Englewood-Cliffs, 1970); “Negro Leagues Team History,” New York Black Yankees, http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/mlb_negro_leagues_teams.jsp#nyby; “New York Black Yankees,” http://www.nlbpa.com/the-negro-league-teams/new-york-black-yankees. 
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Cornell University

The Kansas City Monarchs (1920-1965)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The Kansas City (Missouri) Monarchs were the most prominent baseball team to play in the Negro Leagues. Formed in 1920, they were also the longest-running team in the Leagues, disbanding in 1965. Many famous players were on the Monarchs roster, including the hall of fame pitcher Satchel Paige, and the man responsible for breaking the color barrier in major league baseball, Jackie Robinson. The Kansas City Monarchs won several championships, including the first Negro League World Series in 1924.


Formed in 1920 by owner J.L. Wilkinson, a white businessman who had formerly played baseball but who turned to team management after an injury, the Kansas City Monarchs grew out of the old All Nations barnstorming team that crisscrossed the American Midwest just before World War I.  Other players came from the 25th Infantry Wreckers, an all-black baseball team recruited into the U.S. Army, primarily for their playing abilities.  

Sources: 
Janet Bruce, The Kansas City Monarchs: Champions of Black Baseball (Lawrence, KS:
University of Kansas, 1985); James “joe” Green and and John Holway, "I Was Satchel's Catcher," The Journal of Popular Culture 6:1 (1972).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Seattle Royal Giants (1928-1945)

Vignette Type: 
Organizations
History Type: 
African American History in the West
Seattle Royal Giants, ca. 1933
"Image Ownership: Public Domain"
The Seattle Royal Giants was a semi-professional baseball team that played through the Pacific Northwest in the first half of the 20th Century.  The Giants began in 1928 under the leadership of three former professional players in the Negro Baseball League, Elmer Wilson, Jimmy Claxton, and Powell S. Barnett. For three decades this team was the main attraction for Sunday afternoon baseball in African American Seattle.  As many as 3,500 white, black and Asian fans came to Garfield Park and 5,000 to Woodland Park to see the Giants play.

The 1929 team roster included second baseman Powell Burnett and pitcher Bob Saunders both of Roslyn, Washington. Saunders, who grew up in Rainier Valley, graduated from Broadway High School in Seattle in 1922.   Barnett, also a noted musician, was founder of the Northwest Baseball Umpires Association.  In 1949 the Seattle Parks Department named a park in his honor to recognize his accomplishments.
Sources: 
Lyle Kenai Wilson, Sunday Afternoons at Garfield Park, Seattle’s Black Baseball Teams 1911-1951 (Everett, Washington: Lowell Printing and Publishing, 1997); Powell S. Barnett Papers, University of Washington Special Collections, Seattle, Washington.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
Independent Historian
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