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Muskegon Museum of Art Presents The Story of Negro League Baseball

The Muskegon Museum of Art presents WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball Original Paintings by Kadir Nelson, on view January 13 through March 13, 2011.

Award-winning artist and author Kadir Nelson spent over a decade researching, writing, and illustrating the history of Negro League baseball, from its beginnings in the 1920s through its decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. Nelson’s paintings would ultimately fill the pages of the book We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, which became a New York Times bestseller and received the Coretta Scott King Author Award. This nationally touring exhibition comprises 33 paintings from Nelson’s book and 13 preliminary sketches that speak to the Negro League’s overwhelming success despite the daunting odds against it. “We are the ship,” declared Rube Foster, former pitching great and founder of the Negro National League, “all else the sea.”

We Are the Ship tells the story of gifted athletes and determined owners; of racial discrimination and international sportsmanship; of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. It is a mirror for the social and political history of black America in the first half of the 20th century. Most of all, it is a story of the hundreds of unsung heroes of the Negro Leagues who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do the one thing they loved most: play ball.

The Muskegon showing of We Are the Ship, in addition to Nelson’s paintings of baseball greats Satchel Page, Jackie Robinson, James “Cool Papa” Bell and others, includes fascinating Negro League memorabilia from area collections.

The exhibition’s national tour was developed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, Kansas City, Missouri. The presenting sponsor of We Are the Ship is Frontier Communications. Additional major support is provided by Thomas Tuttle, Warner Norcross and Judd LLP, the Joseph Schulze Family Diversity Fund of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, and a host of other supporting players to be announced at the opening reception.

Image: Kadir Nelson,Safe at Home 2005 Oil on canvas 60 x 60 x 1 ½” Collection of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

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