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June 23, 2008

Black Diamond

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Black Diamond

Author: P. McKissack & F. McKissack

Page Length: 184

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-fiction

REVIEW: This is an interesting story about the origin of the Negro Baseball Leagues. There are few accurate historical records to give a clear picture of creation of this league. However the authors have attempted to assemble several sources together in order that the reader may have a glimpse of how the “American Sport” of baseball segregated it’s African American players from white players during the turbulent time of the Civil War and slavery.

Slave owners did not favor their slaves participating in baseball because it was not as profitable as other sports such as boxing and wrestling. However, as time went by, African-Americans who desired to play baseball found ways to participate as their own teams.

The white players in baseball were more concerned about “skin color” than the managers and owners of the teams. However, because the number of players exceeded that of management, segregation remained strong in the early days of the sport. There were some African-Americans who gained access to the “white” baseball teams by passing off as Cubans. Cubans were allowed to play with whites. Elements of segregation, discrimination, and contradictions flow throughout this book in an attempt to show the true environment in which African-Americans lived and played.

Ironically, once the Great Depression occurred and many white men left the country to fight in the World War, blacks were able to “slide in” and play vacated baseball positions in which they normally were banned.

In the Negro Base Leagues, the players participated in multiple positions on the field. Balls were caught bare-handed. They also did not have access to the resources and money that their “white teams” had. However, the Negro Leagues played not for fame or fortune, but for the love of the game. In their travels across the country, they were able to spread a sense of feeling that equality could be achieved through a common bond called sport.

In 1945, Jackie Robinson signed a contract to be the first African-American to play for a major league baseball team. He would later move on to become the first African-American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. What is ironic about Jackie Robinson is that he had been participating in sports alongside whites before he came to major league baseball because college sports and the Olympics were integrated before Major League Baseball.

This book includes great photographs, captions, player profiles, timelines, and a bibliography for further reference.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: compare/contrast (page 98), Logical Arguments (Chapter 11), Hero Theme (Chapter 11), vocabulary (pirating, RBI, barnstorm – pg 26)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: derogatory words (pages 18, 20, 139), elements of racial prejudice and beatings

RELATED BOOKS: When Willard Met Babe Ruth, Jackie’s Nine, Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950), “Negro Baseball Leagues” (1946)

RELATED WEBSITES: (vocabulary & biographies) (extension on book to include women) (resource to use with the movie “The Jackie Robinson Story”) (activities, glossary, timelines)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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