Teach PA History
On the Other Side of the Color Barrier: Segregation and the Negro Leagues
Equipment & Supplies
  • Copies for each student of all sources and worksheets Overhead projector Dictionaries or on-line dictionary Construction paper Colored pens/pencils


Duplicate copies of all materials. Prepare an overhead of Photograph: Jackie Robinson with Martin Luther King, Jr. (leave out caption and title) and display with the following quote:

"Segregation gives the segregator a false sense of superiority; it gives the segregated a false sense of inferiority." - Martin Luther King

Day 1

First, turn your class's attention to the black and white photograph. Ask the following questions:

1. Do you think these men knew they were having this picture taken? (They are not posing for the picture, so I am going to assume they do not know this particular picture was being taken. Although with the added knowledge that this picture was taken before a press conference, both men must have been aware of cameras flashing around them.)

2. How are they dressed? (Suits)

3. What do they seem to be doing? (engaging in conversation)

4. What might they be talking about? (Allow students to guess. Answers may range depending on if students recognize the men or not. Those who can identify these men might guess that conversation may pertain to Civil Rights issues such as segregation.)

5. Do these men have anything in common?z

  • In appearance: (they are both wearing suits; they are both African-American)

  • In personal story: (They both have contributed significantly to breaking down the barrier of racial prejudice and discrimination.)

6. Who are these two people? (Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson)

Now, read the quote on the board:

"Segregation gives the segregator a false sense of superiority; it gives the segregated a false sense of inferiority." - Martin Luther King

Tell the class that Martin Luther King said this in 1958, about four years before his picture was taken with Jackie Robinson.

In class discussion, review the following questions with the students. Students may answer the questions first in writing. These questions could also be discussed in small groups.

  1. What is segregation? Students may define "segregation" online or use a dictionary. Have students share the definition they found. Here is a definition from WordCentral.Com - Dictionary: 1.(n.) the separation of a race, class, or group (as by restriction to an area or by separate schools.)

  2. Can you give some examples of segregation? [From the 1880s into the 1960s examples of segregation can be found in all aspects of life: separate parks, separate barbers, separate transportation (separate seating on trains and buses), separate water fountains, separate schooling, separate prisons, separate hospitals, and separate sports teams, etc. Jim Crow laws (named after a black character in minstrel shows) were created to enforce segregation to the letter.

Reread the quote on the board.

  • How does segregation make the segregated feel inferior? [Most importantly, segregation deprives the segregated the fundamental freedom of choice. In addition, the reality of segregation was that facilities/housing/schooling were not "separate, but equal;" but rather, separate and of inferior quality.]

  • How does segregation make the segregator feel superior? [It wrongly gives the segregator the sense of power to control another's freedom, and makes the segregator supreme in a limited world that is deprived of diversity.]

Tell students that they are now going to explore in more depth one area in which segregation was prevalent until 1947–baseball.

Hand out marker The Exclusion of African Americans from the NABBP (1867) and Worksheet 1: Written Document Analysis. Ask students to read over the worksheet first. Then read the minutes (Source 1: Minutes from the 1867 National Association of Base Ball Players) paying careful attention to the Sixth point of the Report of the Nominating Committee. Finally, complete the worksheet to the best of their ability.

After students have completed the analysis, ask students to identify what the document reveals about life in the United States in 1867. (This is question #8 on the worksheet they have just finished.) Students may answer that organized baseball existed and that black teams and players were excluded from joining the National Association of Base Ball Players. If students do not come up with these answers on their own, point these two facts out to them. Then ask you class, "If organized baseball existed in 1867 and blacks teams and players were excluded from joining the National Association of Base Ball Players, did black teams and individuals play baseball? [Yes.] If so, where (what league)? [Many played in the Negro Leagues]

Tell students that they are going to study the Negro Leagues. Hand out Chapter 3: The Negro Leagues. Ask students to read the story.

Ask students the following discussion questions:

  1. What were the Negro Leagues? [Negro Leagues were an organized group of black baseball teams that competed against each other for a title.]

  2. Is there any information in the article that you already knew? Students might have background knowledge of Jackie Robinson.

  3. How popular were the Negro League games? Students should refer to the information on the significance of the Negro Leagues to the black community. [Evidence in the story of its popularity include these quotes: "…when the Negro League teams filled stadiums like Shibe Park…" and "Negro League games, especially the Sunday games, were important social events for the black community, times to wear one's finest clothing, catch up on news, and meet old friends passing through town."]

  4. Re-read the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote. Ask students if the article helps us understand how segregation can give the segregated a false sense of inferiority. The article explains that segregation resulted in separate baseball leagues but does not describe how the players experienced segregation themselves.

  5. What more information do we need on the Negro Leagues to help us understand the King quote?

For homework students are to prepare one question that, when answered, would provide the information needed to understand whether the players experienced a false sense of inferiority.

Day 2

Ask the students to share their questions with the class. Remind students that in trying to understand the King quote we would need to know more about how the players experienced segregation in the Negro Leagues. Bring students to a consensus on the question "What impact did segregation have on the Negro Leagues and its players?"

Hand out marker Excerpts of Personal Interviews and Worksheet 2: Response to Interviews. Tell students that they will now read excerpts from personal interviews of former Negro League players. The interviews provide information on how segregation impacted these players and will help students to understand the Martin Luther King quote. To bring the various interview voices to life, you may choose to assign students a particular player's interview response to read out loud to the class. After reading the interviews, students will complete Worksheet 2


In discussion, review answers to Worksheet 2. List the examples of segregation on the board. Some examples from the interviews will include:

  • not being served in restaurants

  • separate hotels

  • segregated seating in stadiums ("chicken-wire" separation)

  • separate churches

  • segregated seating in trains

  • separate parks for playing baseball

  • education

Ask students to re-read Martin Luther King quote. Did segregation give these players a false sense of inferiority? Why or why not? In what way did the Major Leagues have a false of superiority? How did segregation hurt white players as well?

Refer back to the Negro Leagues substory. Ask students when the Major Leagues integrated. Students should answer that the Major Leagues integrated in 1947 with Jackie Robinson.

Have students think about how Jackie Robinson might have changed attitudes regarding segregation.

Hand out Cartoon from The Sporting News, January 26, 1949 and Worksheet 3: Cartoon Analysis. Have students complete the cartoon analysis. Review the worksheet in class discussion and include the following questions:

  1. What is the message of the cartoon? [People should shed their prejudice and root for athletes to play their best regardless of their skin color. This cartoon in particular was drawn in response to racist reactions occurring when Jackie Robinson and teammate Roy Campanella appeared in Southern exhibition games.]

  2. Do you think this message (of shedding prejudice) still applies to us today?

As homework and culminating activity, give students the following instructions:

Draw or find a cartoon that shows segregation or prejudice being combated today (or recently). Amount on construction paper. If you are drawing the cartoon, make sure to include a caption. On the reverse side, write a paragraph describing the cartoon and how prejudice is being overcome. You will present the cartoon to your classmates tomorrow. Include the following information in your paragraph and class presentation:

  • What is your cartoon caption or title?

  • If you found the cartoon, where did you find it? (Name of the source.)

  • What is the setting (background) of the cartoon?

  • Is the cartoon about a specific event? If so, what is it?

  • What specific people/places/objects/animals are used in the cartoon?

  • Is there any action in the cartoon? If so, describe what is happening.

  • What is the message of the cartoon?

  • How does the cartoon convey (show) its message?

Day 3

Allow the class to present their cartoons. After you have completed assessing students" cartoon assignment, you may choose to create a binder for your class that collects and exhibits their work.

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