BLACK BASEBALL, BLACK BUSINESS: Race Enterprise and the Fate of the Segregated Dollar

By Lewis, Thabiti | American Studies, April 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

BLACK BASEBALL, BLACK BUSINESS: Race Enterprise and the Fate of the Segregated Dollar


Lewis, Thabiti, American Studies


BLACK BASEBALL, BLACK BUSINESS: Race Enterprise and the Fate of the Segregated Dollar. By Roberta J. Newman and Joel Nathan Rosen. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 2014.

Baseball's color line, instigated by the prevailing political and social climate, led to the emergence of the Negro Leagues and a "web of businesses that made up a segregated economy, both de facto and de jure." Moreover, it "fueled an economic engine that powered a system comprised of more modest enterprises" (3). The Great Migration and black baseball conflated to shape business enterprise for black America during segregation in America. Rosen and Newman detail how the demise of the Negro Leagues at the hands of integration of white baseball in 1947 impacted black America more than many realized. In the mode of earlier books like Robert Peterson's Only The Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams (1970) and Neil Lanctot's Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution (2004), Rosen and Newman examine the early symbiotic relationship between black business and black baseball, particularly in core urban cities.

The book is chronological. The initial chapter "Black Business and Consciousness in Context" opens with an effective meditation on the Great Migration and Modernity as central to the rise of the New Negro and black baseball. The authors focus on the influence of race women and men of the era advocating solidarity and community building. The second chapter situates black baseball within an African American ecosystem of the 1920s. It examines the early history of the Negro League as a product that grew because of evolving populations in urban centers. The third chapter "The Depression, Black Business, and Black Baseball Revisited, 1930-1939" outlines the first wave of a thriving black baseball fueled ecosystem between the First World War and the depression.

Newman and Rosen extend their examination into the very important 1940s. Their chapter "The Second Wave and the Business of Black Baseball, 1939-1946 re-examines the exploitation and antagonisms between white booking agents and black entrepreneurs. The fifth and sixth chapters chronicle Jackie Robinson's emergence and the implications of the desegregation of black baseball on black businesses. Of particular interest is a discussion of how breaching the color line in Major League Baseball gave the illusion of equality, but failed competitively within the mainstream. Finally, the authors detail the demise of the black ecosystem in the aftermath of desegregation, which undermined the financial stability of ancillary businesses that racism and segregated baseball produced. …

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