KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The baseball league that helped spark integration of American professional sports is being honored today on a 44-cent U.S. postage stamp being issued at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
The Negro Leagues Baseball stamps pay tribute to the all-black professional baseball leagues that operated from 1920 to about 1960. A second commemorative stamp features the league's founder, Andrew "Rube" Foster, who is considered the "father" of Negro Leagues Baseball. In 1981, Foster was honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the "foremost manager and executive" of Negro Leagues baseball.
"The United States Postal Service is honored to be dedicating two stamps today in commemoration of Negro Leagues Baseball," said Thurgood Marshall Jr., the Postal Service's Board of Governors vice chairman. "In 1920, the first of several black leagues of the modern era was formed right here in Kansas City. It was called the Negro National League," Marshall noted. "With the issuance of these stamps, the rich legacy of the Negro Leagues will travel far and wide, throughout this nation."
Vice Chairman Marshall's remarks highlighted the legendary baseball giants who played in the Negro Leagues, including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, James "Cool Papa" Bell and Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947 and opened doors for former Negro League players and Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Larry Dobyand many others.
Marshall also gave a special salute to Birmingham, AL, postal employee Cleophus Brown, who played in the Negro Leagues for the Birmingham Black Barons and the Louisville Clippers. Brown, 76, has been a motor vehicle driver for the Postal Service for the past 30 years.
Joining Marshall and Brown to unveil the stamps were Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Gregory Baker, Stamp Artist Kadir Nelson, who designed the stamps, and former Negro leagues player Mamie "Peanut" Johnson.
"As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, we are thrilled that the U.S. Postal Service has chosen to recognize and honor the men and women of the Negro Leagues who set aside the challenges of their time and empowered themselves to become the most positive examples of leadership, character, creativity and determination ever imagined in our modern day," said Greg Baker, president, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. "In turn, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has nominated the U.S. Postal Service for a United Nations NGO Positive Peace Award to honor them for celebrating the league's legacy."
Working in conjunction with non-government organizations within the United Nations, and viewed as a 21st century peace prize, these awards recognize companies that are making a difference in the world through their support of local, national and international nonprofit organizations.
Through the inspiration of Horace M. Peterson III (1945-1992), founder of the Black Archives of Mid-America, a group of local historians, business leaders, and former baseball players came together to create the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the early 1990s. The museum has also welcomed several thousand visitors and dignitaries, including Presidents Bill Clintonand George W. Bush, General (Ret.) Colin Powell, Jesse Jackson, Maya Angelou, Judith Jamison, Mike Dukakis, Walter Cronkite, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Barry Bonds, Tony Larussa, Isaac Hayes, Ossie Davis, Sinbad, and many, many others. For more information, visit www.nlbm.com.
About Kadir Nelson:
Illustrator of the award-winning book about the Negro Leagues, "We Are the Ship," and "Testing the Ice: A True Story aboutJackie Robinson," Kadir Nelson previously illustrated stamps celebrating activist Anna Julia Cooper and author Richard Wright. Many of Nelson's paintings are found in the collections of notable institutions and museums, including the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the U.S. House of Representatives; as well as in the collections ofHollywood and sports legends. Nelson's works are instantly recognizable by the emotion and strength of his varied subject matter. "My focus is to create images of people who demonstrate a sense of hope and nobility. I want to show the strength and integrity of the human being and the human spirit."