Diversity in Baseball Opens at National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

. June 26, 2015

CINCINNATI, OH — Diversity in Baseball, the latest special exhibition opening at the National Underground Railroad Center on Friday, June 26, celebrates players who have broken barriers and changed the game, making it more inclusive and reflective of America’s diverse make-up. The exhibit opens as thousands of baseball fans from across the country arrive in Cincinnati for Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game next month.

Through compelling illustrations and powerful stories, Diversity in Baseball explores the challenges faced by the legendary group of players featured in the exhibit, who broke racial, gender and physical barriers. One recognizable player highlighted in this exhibition is Jackie Robinson, who in 1947 became the first African American player in Major League Baseball’s modern era. Despite the second baseman’s numerous achievements, he was subjected to racial slurs from fans and even the rejection of his own teammates – trials of integration that he endured with grace both on and off the diamond.

“The celebration of baseball’s game changers harkens me back to my own personal experiences,” says Dr. Clarence G. Newsome, president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “As a young man, I was one of the first black football players on athletic scholarship at Duke University. Diversity in Baseball is personal for me and I know visitors will be inspired by the stories in this exhibit.”

Cincinnati Reds fans will also find their team well represented in this exhibition due to the Reds’ long history of inclusivity. From the early 1900s to today, the Reds have been home to many Cuban players. During their tenure, Cuban-American players Rafael Almeida (1911-1913) and Dolf Luque (1918-1929) encountered many hardships, however, they persevered, becoming legends of the great American pastime. Reds ownership is also highlighted in Diversity in Baseball, specifically the purchase of the team in 2006 by Bob Castellini, Sr. and the establishment of African American Capital Enterprises, LLC (A.C.C.E., LCC).

Diversity in Baseball features a baseball diamond, complete with a pitcher’s mound and dugout. Visitors will have an opportunity to engage with actors who bring the influential players featured in the exhibition to life, including Roberto Clemente, Jean Faut, Hank Greenberg, Jackie Robinson and Toni Stone. In addition to the interactive baseball diamond, each text panel includes original illustrations by National Underground Railroad Freedom Center brand champion, Jesse Kramer.

“The design for the Diversity in Baseball is something of a story book in my eyes,” says Kramer. “I wanted to portray the love of baseball in this country and the nostalgia that comes with being a baseball fan. I felt that the best way to do that was an illustrated approach. It’s like stepping into a life-size children’s book. You are surrounded by baseball heroes from the dawn of the game until today. This approach will resonate with kids and adults alike, and there is something wonderful in that.”

Although baseball has celebrated many achievements in the last century, issues regarding racial sensitivity and full representation still exist today—there are no active Muslim players, female players or any openly gay players in the league. It is certain that the game, as well as the nation, will never stop evolving, and baseball will continue to work toward more inclusive representation within the league.

“This exhibition is opening to the public as the nation is reflecting on important issues regarding race and inclusion in professional sports,” says Dr. Newsome. “Diversity in Baseball will not only engage and educate the public on current conversations, it will connect them to the courageous men and women who laid the groundwork for future generations.”

Diversity in Baseball opens Friday, June 26 and is curated by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, with the support of Macy’s, PNC, P&G, Tom Schiff, Lightborne, Nielsen and John Pepper. Diversity in Baseball is included with general admission. Learn more about Diversity in Baseball at freedomcenter.org

Category: Museum News

Comments are closed.