Baseball and Civil Rights: KCPS Celebrates Black History Month with Negro Leagues Museum

6 black men in professional dress pose for a photo in the board room.  there is colorful artwork in the background.

When Bob Kendrick talks about the trailblazing Black athletes who broke baseball’s color barrier, he focuses on their contributions to sport and society.

“Everyone likes to look at the Negro Leagues from the lens of hardship,” said Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Kendrick sees his institution as a celebration of Black excellence and athleticism. Last week, he spoke at a Black History Month Lunch and Learn at the Board of Education that was broadcast to KCPS staff and the community.

“This is history that is missing from our classrooms and textbooks,” KCPS Assistant Superintendent of Equity, Inclusion and Innovation Dr. Derald Davis said. “I’m proud to be part of a school district moving toward more culturally responsive curriculum.”

Kendrick said he wants the museum to be part of that curriculum. The NLBM is converting the historic Paseo YMCA into the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center in honor of the late, great Kansas City baseball legend.

“We’ve always felt there’s something significant about experiential learning,” Kendrick said. “Well, we’re building an interactive exhibit to explore the math and science of baseball. We’ll teach you what it’s like to hit Satchel Paige’s fastball at 105 miles per hour.”

Then Kendrick chuckled. Hardly anyone could hit Paige’s fastball. Although official Negro Leagues statistics are incomplete, Paige estimated he pitched more than 2,500 games, including 250 shutouts and at least 50 no-hitters.

students in red and black t-shirts stand in a hallway smiling

The Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts Concert Choir poses after performing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ at the KCPS Board of Education on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

KCPS Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell thanked Kendrick for sharing the story of the Negro Leagues. The celebration also featured music by the Paseo Academy Concert Choir and Artist in Residence Willie Thornton, dance sponsored by the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey and art by former Lincoln Middle teacher Harold Smith.

dr. Bedell said the district’s focus on equity is helping students of color make academic gains faster than their peers across the state of Missouri.

“When you do this work right, you begin to see the results we are having in this school district,” Bedell said. “If you are in this school district, you are valid.”

VISIT THE NEGRO LEAGUES BASEBALL MUSEUM

Admission to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is free during Black History Month! The Kansas City Royals and Royals Charities are covering the cost of admission in February so Kansas Citians can celebrate the legacy of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Jackie Robinson and other Negro Leagues baseball players.

The NLBM is open 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Saturday, and 12 to 5 pm on Sunday. The museum is located in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, 1616 E 18th St., Kansas City, MO 64108. We think a trip to the NLBM is a great way for KCPS families to enjoy the long weekend!

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