Teach PA History
On the Other Side of the Color Barrier: Segregation and the Negro Leagues
What to Know
Teaching Time
three 45-minute sessions
Grade Level
Middle School
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
  • History
Historical Period
  • The Emergence of Modern Pennsylvania - 1901-1928
  • The Great Depression and World War II - 1929-1945
  • Post-WWII Pennsylvania - 1946-1974
In 1867, on behalf of his baseball team the Pythians, civil rights leader and baseball player Octavius Cato applied for membership to the National Association of Base Ball Players. The Association denied Cato's request because the Pythians was a black team. By the 1880s the Major Leagues had segregated all teams. The Supreme Court followed in 1896 with the Plessy v. Ferguson decision. The Supreme Court concluded that separate facilities for whites and blacks were constitutional as long as they were "separate but equal". While the Plessy decision specifically referred to state laws regarding transportation, its impact quickly spread to many other areas of public life. America and America's pastime entered the ugly period of Jim Crow. By the 1940s, major league baseball again addressed segregation, this time in the right direction. The story of how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier is well known and overshadows the rich history of baseball on the other side of the color barrier. Major League baseball excluded black players, but black players played baseball and a lot of it. The history of the Negro Leagues is one of long bus rides, segregated ballparks, and discrimination coupled with packed stadiums, ecstatic fans, the camaraderie of the road and a love of the game. Black teams became a source of community pride and economic engines. Negro League baseball existed because of segregation and yet after studying its history and becoming familiar with its roster of talented, colorful players, one almost begins to feel nostalgic for this lost piece of the past. In this lesson students will be introduced to the history of the Negro Leagues. Students will read personal interviews with former players to learn about segregation and to appreciate the passion these players had for the game of baseball.


Students will: 1. Analyze primary source cartoon using the National Archives and Records Administration Photograph Analysis Worksheet. 2. Analyze primary source document using the National Archives and Records Administration Written Document Analysis Worksheet. 3. Read and respond to a brief history of the Negro Leagues. 4. Appreciate the struggles faced by Negro League players. 5. Develop their critical thinking skills through written and oral exercises.

Standards Alignment

  • Arts and Humanities

    9.4.8. D. Describe to what purpose philosophical ideas generated by artists can be conveyed through works in the arts and humanities.

  • History

    8.2.9. D. Identify and analyze conflict and cooperation among social groups and organizations in Pennsylvania history.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

    1.1.8. D. Identify basic facts and ideas in text using specific strategies.
    1.2.8.A. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas.
    1.5.8. C. Write with controlled and/or subtle organization.
    1.5.8. F. Edit writing using the conventions of language.
    1.5.8.G. Present and/or defend written work for publication when appropriate.
    1.6.8. A. Listen to others.
    1.6.8. D. Contribute to discussions.

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