Baseball Cards and Race Relations

Robert K Fitts. Journal of American Culture. Volume 17, Issue 3. Fall 1994.

Introduction

On May 30 and 31, 1992, in Secaucus, New Jersey, the Negro League Baseball Players Association held their first Memorabilia and Card Show. For this weekend, 34 former Negro League players signed autographs and talked with thousands of black and white fans. On Saturday, these men, ignored by most Americans during their careers, filled the spacious hotel to capacity. Many fans waited to enter the building. For the following week, these former players were honored at professional ballgames and with media interviews throughout the Northeastern United States.

It is only recently that white baseball fans are appreciating the accomplishments of hundreds of these African American players. In the past few years, articles, books, movies, replica baseball uniforms and retrospective baseball card sets began to portray the Negro Leagues. The late-Kansas City Monarchs’ first baseman, George Giles, stated in February, 1991: “I’m eighty-one years old, and more good things have happened to us in the last six months than what happened in my whole lifetime. I’m just glad I lived to see things start to change” (Negro League…).

As Giles alludes to, the Negro Leagues were not always this popular. In fact, most baseball histories written before the 1970s rarely mentioned the Negro Leagues, and when they did, the black leagues usually were treated as only a footnote. Why were the Negro Leagues written out of baseball history, and how was this version of the past perpetuated? An examination of baseball cards from the 1950s will help answer this question

Baseball Cards as Material Culture

Sociologists and anthropologists stress that sports are a form of ritual and as such are ideal for examining a society’s underlying beliefs and world view (Harris and Park, Novak, Sojka). Although sports rarely mirror a society’s nonnative beliefs, they teach social values and maintain and reinforce existing social relations (Harris and Park 14). Similarly, many scholars agree that a society’s objects can reflect its basic beliefs and world view (Glassie, Deetz, Prown). Furthermore, material culture not only reflects a society’s beliefs, but also transmits symbolic messages that are an active agent in social Interaction (Wobst, Hodder, Shanks and Tilley; Beaudry et al., Little). The relationship between a society’s objects and culture is, therefore, recursive. Objects reflect a society’s beliefs, and manipulation of these same objects to communicate symbolic messages can bring about cultural change (Shackel and Little). As the material culture of sports, examining baseball cards can illuminate American social behavior.

To date only a handful of social scientists have examined baseball cards. For example, Paul Mullins examines baseball cards as a commodity and explores the relationships between cards, the game of baseball, capitalism, and consumer behavior. In another work, economists Clark Nardinelli and Curtis Simon examine the correlation between baseball players’ race and the price of their cards. They conclude that racism affects the value of baseball cards, as non-white players are valued less than white players of equal ability. Since baseball cards are considered children’s toys, they are only now receiving scholarly attention. In the future, because of their importance in American popular culture, baseball cards will become a common source of data.

The Baseball Card

In the late-19th century, as a gimmick to increase sales, tobacco companies began inserting cardboard pictures with their products. Tobacco during this period was marked toward males (Cook), so the first inserts were photographs of young women. Although originally popular, some thought these images scandalous, and pictures of baseball players replaced them in 1886 (Slocum). Tobacco inserts were popular until World War I, but thereafter candy companies produced the majority of baseball cards. These cards depicted Major and Minor League players, but never Negro League players.

Modern baseball cards were developed in the late-1940s and early-1950s by the Bowman and Topps companies. The style of these cards changes each year, but the basic design has remained constant. The front of the card depicts the play and often his name, team and position, while the back contains biographical information, such as height, weight and age, baseball statistics and various anecdotes concerning his career, hobbies and pre-Major League experience. These texts were written by by a variety of sportswriters and company staff writers (Boyd and Harris 25). It is these biographical anecdotes that reveal attitudes toward the Negro Leagues.

Their popularity with children make baseball cards a very active form of material culture. Children commonly learn about baseball’s past through these cards. By examining the statistical records, the biographical information and other trivia, children learn about individual players and the general history of the game. This cannot be overstated. Baseball cards probably educate a young fan about the game’s history more than books, sports announcers or parents. Because cards depict what the manufacturers believe are important aspects of baseball’s past, they can play a significant role in rewriting history.

Negro League Baseball

According to American popular history, Jackie Robinson was the first black to play Major League Baseball. Like many of baseball’s myths, this is untrue. Baseball became segregated in the 1890s, after Moses Fleetwood Walker and others had played in the major and minor leagues (Tygiel 13-15, Bruce 5). Interestingly, Major League Baseball never officially banned blacks from playing. Instead, an unwritten rule stated that no black players were welcome. In the early 1940s, Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Landis surprised everyone by proclaiming “Negroes are not barred from Organized Baseball (the term used for professional white baseball) by the commissioner and fever have been during the twenty-one years I have served. There is no rule in Organized Baseball prohibiting their participation and never has been to my knowledge” (Peterson 178).

Nevertheless, foiled attempts to sign black players in the war years show that the policy existed For example, in 1943 Bill Veeck reached an agreement to buy the last place Philadelphia Phillies. On the day before the sale, Veeck met with Landis and explained his plan to produce a pennant winner by hiring Negro League players. Landis apparently “listened politely, revealing no reaction.” Yet, the next morning when Veeck arrived in Philadelphia to complete the transaction, he found the Phillies transferred to the league, which promptly sold the team for half of Veeck’s offering price. “Several weeks later Veeck heard that (National League President Ford) Frick had boasted about stopping the young maverick from contaminating the league” (Tygiel 41).

Blacks responded to segregation by creating their own baseball teams. These teams toured the countryside, or barnstormed, in search of opponents and paying audiences. By the late-teens, blacks decided to organize an African-American baseball league. The creation of the Negro National League in 1920, the Eastern Colored League in 1923, the Negro American League in 1937 and several “minor” leagues gave African-Americans a cultural institution comparable to the white major leagues (Peterson). The Negro Leagues lasted until 1960 when Major League Baseball was sufficiently integrated to make them obsolete (204).

Throughout their history, financial problems forced the Negro Leagues to be less organized than the white majors. Teams often played 200 games a season, but usually less than 80 were league matches against other black teams (Peterson 146, 257-88). The schedules were filled out by barnstorming against semi-pro teams to earn cash. Scheduling problems arose because League games we played in Major, or Minor, League stadiums wen the white teams were on the road. Thus, Negro League teams rarely played an equal number of games during a season (86-87). The paucity of sportswriters covering the games and the lack of funding to hire statisticians meant that few teams accurately kept their players’ statistics. The combination of unwieldy team standings and unreliable individual statistics, gave the Negro Leagues the image of a “fly-by-night,” amateur endeavor. This image provided an excuse for the white baseball establishment to keep them outside of Organized Baseball.

Despite their rejection by Organized Baseball, Negro League players were as professional as their white counterparts, In the late-1930s and early-1940s, black players received salaries varying from $125 per month for a rookie to Satchel Paige’s yearly $40,000 (Person 120-21). Until the mid-1940s, most players’ contracts were oral agreements. As a result, holding out for more money, not getting paid and mid-season “jumping” to a higher paying team were common. Although the white Major Leagues had similar troubles in the first decades of the 20th century, the practice of “jumping” contracts contributed to the Negro Leagues’ amateur image among white baseball officials.

The Negro Leagues were less organized than the white majors, but the quality of baseball was similar. Black teams often beat Major League teams. For example, in the 1920s Philadelphia witnessed a rivalry between the Major League Athletics and the black Hilldale Club. Hilldale won both of the recorded games (Rogosin 183). As Negro League victories mounted, Major League Baseball Commissioner Landis declared that intact, organized white teams could not play blacks. Instead, only “all-star” teams could compete (Rogosin 184). Although this may have obscured the meaning of the games, it did not stop the Negro Leaguers from beating the white teams. John Holway (xviii-xix) has uncovered 445 boxscores from these “all-star” games dating between 1886 and 1948. “The blacks won 269, lost 172, and tied 4!”

Other examples of the high quality of Negro League baseball came in the winter months, when established whites and black played integrated ball in the Caribbean. In these contests, blacks not only held their own but sometimes led the league in various statistical categories (Rogosin, Holway). The accomplishments of ex-Negro Leaguers who made the majors after 1947 also suggest the caliber of black baseball. In the majors, former Negro League players won four batting, twelve homerun, and seven RBI titles, led a league in victories twice and batters struck out four times. They also won six Rookie of the Year, one Cy Young, and eleven Most Valuable Player awards (Wolff). Between 1953 and 1959 every National League Most Valuable Player had played in the Negro Leagues. Among the more famous Ex-Negro League players were Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Roy Campanella, Larry Doby and Jackie Robinson.

Despite their obvious achievements, authors treated Negro League players as only footnotes in baseball history. For example, national sports publications rarely discussed the Negro Leagues. A quick survey through these magazines gives the impression that black baseball did not exist until Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers. Similarly, until the 1980s nobody produced baseball cards of Negro League players. Examining Major League baseball cards of players who had played in the Negro Leagues, will show how white society ignored black baseball and removed it from history.

Methods

Baseball cards show how the Negro leagues were relegated to historical obscurity. I approached this problem by examining post-World War II baseball card sets that were nationally distributed, issued annually, and depicted at least 200 players. Only the Bowman and Topps companies’ products meet these standards. Bowman produced cards from 1948 until Topps bought them out in 1956. Topps started production in 1951 and is the largest producer of sportscards today.

By cross examining lists of Negro League players with Major League players and consulting baseball history books, I found 52 Major Leaguers who were Negro Leagues veterans (Peterson, Tygiel, Bruce, Wolff, Aaron and Wheeler, Dixon and Hannigan). Forty-four of these players appear on baseball cards. I examined each player’s first five cards, because cards rarely discuss pre-Major League experience after five years. A total of 184 cards are available for analysis. One hued and forty-eight, or 80 percent, of these cards were examined at museums, private collections and sportscard shops. The methods of analysis were simple. The biographical information on back of each card was checked to note the presence or absence of references to the black leagues, and pertinent comments were noted. These show two ways the Negro Leagues were written out of baseball history: some people just ignored their existence, while others felt it necessary to dismiss them as unimportant.

The Convenience of ignorance and the Propaganda of Segregation

A structural study of the biographical information on baseball cards shows how white fans ignored the Negro Leagues. Tables 1 and 2 depict the players examined, the years and producers of their baseball cards and if their biographical profiles mention the Negro Leagues. In these tables, the columns represent the cards’ manufacturer and year produced; “B” stands for Bowman Gum Inc., while “T” represents Topps Chewing Gum. A “NO” refers to cards that do not discuss the players’ Negro League career, while a “YES” marks cards that mention this experience. Years when a player was not portrayed on a card, or when existing cards were not surveyed, are left blank.

As the tables show, 15 of the 148 surveyed cards, or 10 percent, refer to the players’ Negro League background. For example, Henry Thompson’s 1951 Bowman card reads: “With the Kansas City Monarchs, Negro American League, 1948.” Ernie Banks’s 1955 Topps card provides more information. It states: “Signed in ’53 after batting 380 in the Negro American League….” Most cards, however, do not mention the black leagues in anecdotes or in the statistics section. For example, on Jonnie Wyatt’s 1963 Topps card, the line for 1955 states: “Out of Organized Baseball,” rather than noting his year with the Kansas City Monarchs.

There is no parallel situation among non-Negro League players to statistically test the relationship between playing in the black leagues and noting it on baseball cards; however, of 40 randomly picked 1953 Topps cards, depicting non-Negro League players with less than five years of Major League experience, 90 percent discussed the player’s time in the minors, 15 percent college ball, and 8 percent high school baseball experience. The disparity between the few former-Negro League players, whose full baseball experience is mentioned, and the many whites, whose entire baseball career is outlined, suggests that references to Negro League experience are unusually scarce.

The few Negro League references on baseball cards reflect how many white Americans dealt with the country’s racial problems–they ignored them. During the first half of the 20th century most whites never questioned segregation. Instead, white Americans dealt with Its injustices by developing what Gunnar Myrdal called “the convenience of ignorance.” Myrdal was a Swedish social economist who in the late-1930s was given the task of examining race relations in the United States. Instead of tackling this project in the library, Myrdal went on extensive tours of the United States to observe and interview Americans. As a result, his functionalist interpretations of race relations are extraordinarily perceptive and original.

The “astonishing ignorance about the negro on the part of the white person” shocked Myrdal (48). Whites knew little about black lifestyles or social problems, and misinformation, which supported stereotypes dating back to the early-slave period, abounded. This was caused not only by physical segregation, but also by segregated thought (Myrdal 37). Social etiquette disallowed discussions on race. Myrdal writes: “The subject is only seldom referred to in the church. In the school it will be circumvented like sex; it does not fit naturally in any one of the regular courses given….The press, with remarkable exceptions, ignores the Negroes, except for their crimes” (37). Myrdal found that whites were comfortable with this ignorance–in fact, they cultivated it.

Myrdal concludes “the ignorance about the negro is not, it must be stressed, just a random lack of interest and knowledge. It is a tense and high-strung restriction and distortion of knowledge…” that is “…part of (an) opportunistic escape reaction” (40, 42). By avoiding the realities of black life and racism, whites evaded the contradiction of a segregated nation allegedly based on freedom and equality. White “people become trained generally to sacrifice truth, realism, and accuracy for the sake of keeping superficial harmony” (Myrdal 40).

The “convenience of ignorance” is reflected on baseball cards. The cards rarely mention the Negro Leagues because they are a product of segregation. Segregation is a sensitive spot in baseball history because of the game’s special place in American culture. Baseball, as our national game, supposedly epitomizes American values and strengths. It was, as Mark Twain wrote: “the very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming 19th century” (Twain in Seymour 345). Furthermore, it “was a cohesive factor for a diverse, polyglot population. With the loss of the traditional ties known in a rural society, baseball gave to many the feeling of belonging” (Seymour 351). Yet this game, which symbolized American strengths, separated and degraded African Americans. People wanted to forget this dark side of baseball because it undermined both the sport’s innocence and America’s ideology of freedom and equality.

Many whites avoided baseball’s and America’s racial problems by adopting the “convenience of ignorance.” As a result, people either ignored the Negro Leagues and other reminders of baseball’s policy of segregation or they dismissed the problem altogether. Scanty references the black leagues on baseball cards show how most people just ignored their existence. Other people, however, actively supported baseball’s policy of segregation. From the 1890s to 1940s, these people developed propaganda to keep blacks out of the Major Leagues. A few comments on the surveyed baseball cards show how this propaganda was gradually accepted as truth.

Supporters of segregated baseball often claimed that blacks, as well as whites, wanted the races separated. For example:

The Sporting News devoted its entire editorial column for August 6, 1942, to a discourse entitled, “No Good From Raising Race Issue.” The journal argued that few people, either black or white, favored the mixing of the races on the diamond. Members of each race claimed the Sporting News, “prefer to draw their talents from their own ranks and both groups know their crowd psychology and do not care to run the risks of damaging their own game.” Citing several erroneous examples of blacks who allegedly favored segregation, the editorial stated that only “agitators, ever ready to seize an issue that will rebound to their profit and self-aggrandizement,” who were “not looking at the question from the broader paint of view or for the ultimate good of either race or the individuals in it” raised the issue….[Furthermore, the editorial added]…”Without a medium for developing [black] talent,” predicted the newspaper, “there would be no players who could make the grade, even if given the opportunity.” (Tygiel 38-39)

As this last point suggests, opponents of desegregation believed that arguing over segregated baseball was moot, because there were few blacks who could make the majors. A few years later, the Sporting News editor still believed that “there is not a single Negro player with major league possibilities” (Tygiel 32). The owner of the Cleveland Indians agreed: “In 1945 there was only one Negro League player mentioned as being of major league caliber. That was Satchel Paige” (Tygiel 32). To sustain this belief, these people dismissed black players’ accomplishments. For example, Negro League victories against white teams were explained away by claiming that the whites weren’t trying. Supporters of segregation also tried to degrade the Negro Leagues by emphasizing their disorganization and attacking the quality of play. They created the myth that the Negro Leagues were an amalgamation of unprofessional teams which spent more time entertaining crowds with clown acts than playing baseball.

During the 1940s, when integration seemed inevitable, major league owners and officials who supported desegregation also started attacking the Negro Leagues with these arguments. The reason for these attacks was not bigotry, however, but economics. Major League Baseball had two economic reasons to portray black baseball as unorganized and inferior. First, the Negro, Leagues competed with the Major Leagues for paying fans. Although this may not have been a factor in the 1920s and 1930s, during World War II there was an increase in both black and white attendance at Negro League games as many Major Leaguers were drafted (Tygiel 24, 53; Dixon and Hannigan 193). By downplaying the professional quality of black baseball, the rising popularity of the Negro Leagues may have been abated.

Secondly, in the late-1940s Major League clubs benefitted financially by depicting the Negro Leagues as unprofessional. With the erroneous claim that the black leagues did not have contractual control of their players, Major League clubs signed Negro Leaguers to contracts without compensating their former teams. The white clubs often got away with this tactic. Whites, believing the propaganda, did not object, and black owners, knowing that the black community would not tolerate anyone obstructing integration, could not object. The greatest practitioner of this ploy was Dodgers’ General Manager Branch Rickey, who used it to sign Jackie Robinson (Rogosin 178-80, 216; Tygiel 88).

This propaganda, espoused by both bigots and opportunistic owners, took hold. Most white baseball fans believed that the Negro Leagues were only a baseball sideshow, with few quality players. The “convenience of Ignorance” helps explain why this propaganda was so easily accepted. Since many white fans didn’t want to hear about the Negro Leagues, few knew that this image was untrue. Some baseball writers tried to educate the masses (Peterson 175), but generally white newspapers ignored black baseball altogether (Chadwick 160). Former Negro League player David Malarcher recalls that these arguments even affected blacks.

Propaganda is a terrible thing. The propaganda of segregation and bigotry is evil. It deceives people. I used to have Negroes occasionally tell me, ‘Do you think Negroes can play in the major leagues?’…But the whole point is that the propaganda of keeping the Negro out of the major leagues made even some of the Negroes think that we didn’t have the ability. It started them to thinking it too. (Holway 56)

Specific comments on some baseball cards from the 1950s show that this propaganda became accepted as main-stream history. Some of these cards state that the Negro Leagues were not professional, but semipro teams; others suggest they were unorganized: and others indirectly dismiss the quality of play. As a variety of different people wrote the texts, these views reflect the beliefs of many knowledgeable baseball commentators.’ Once this propaganda was believed, the Negro Leagues were dismissed as unimportant and relegated to only a footnote in baseball history.

Several cards support the myth of unorganized black baseball by relegating the Negro Leagues to semi-pro status. Three cards do this directly, by calling a black team “semi-pro” without mentioning the Negro Leagues. For example, the 1954 Topps card of Harry “Suitcase” Simpson states “in 1949 the Indians bought him from the Philadelphia Stars, of semi-pro fame, and sent him to Wilkes-Barre.” The Stars were a successful Negro National League team for over 16 years.

The propagandists also used the term “Organized Baseball” to make the black leagues seem inferior. Organized Baseball refers to a group “of closely associated leagues and clubs operating under its own set of laws for the control of players and the protection of territories” (Seymour 144-45). This organization, which includes all the Major and Minor Leagues, was founded at the turn of the century when Jim Crow policies were strongly entrenched. As a result, Organized Baseball forbade blacks from joining. Proponents of segregation, in an effort to down-play the Negro. Leagues, stressed their non-membership. By using the term “Organized Baseball,” they implied that leagues which were not members were unorganized, unprofessional and by extension, inferior.

Examples of this are found on several cards. Monte Irvin’s 1953 Topps card states “The former Lincoln University star has been in organized baseball since 1949,” omitting the previous eight years of Negro League play that earned Irvin a place in the Hall of Fame. Jim Gilliam’s 1953 card notes with surprise that “with just two seasons of organized baseball under his belt, Jim captured the second base spot in the Dodger infield.” Gilliam’s six seasons in the Negro Leagues probably helped his chances. By not mentioning the Negro Leagues, and suggesting that the players’ careers started when they joined Organized Baseball, these cards suggest that the black leagues were unimportant to the player’s development. This both reflects and perpetuates the propaganda that black baseball was disorganized and inferior to white baseball.

Luke Easter’s 1954 Topps card shows that the propaganda against the Negro Leagues worked. The card reads “Luke was one of the country’s best softball players. Strange as it seems, Luke never played baseball until 1946!” Yet, Easter never played softball. Instead before 1946, he played on the St. Louis Titanium Giants, a black semi-pro team, after which he played two years on the Washington Homestead Grays (Cattau 121). The reference to softball attempts to explain where Easter received the experience that made him an instant Major League star, without mentioning the black leagues. It is possible that Topps received incorrect Information about Easter. Nevertheless, Topps probably knew that Easter played in the black leagues, yet they believed that he developed his mighty swing on the softball field. This shows the extent people believed the propaganda against the Negro Leagues. Softball and baseball require different batting skills. It is unlikely for a player to enter Organized Baseball straight from softball. Yet, Top chose this explanation for Easter’s ability, rather than credit black baseball. In effect, the card states that softball experience is better preparation for the Major Leagues than black baseball. This shows that even white baseball experts believed the propaganda and considered the Negro Leagues inferior and unimportant to baseball’s history.

Baseball cards show that the propaganda against the Negro Leagues was effective. The omitted references to the Negro Leagues suggested that the experience was unimportant in the players’ development, which Implied that black ball was inferior to white baseball. This was also conveyed by relegating the Negro League teams semi-pro status. It is unknown if baseball card manufacturers consciously ignored the Negro Leagues, just followed societal norms by not mentioning them or bravely made some references them despite the etiquette of not discussing segregation. Nevertheless, by rarely discussing the Negro Leagues and accepting the old propaganda, baseball cards promoted a sanitized version of history that ignored segregation. As active material culture, the cards not only reflected attitudes toward the Negro Leagues but they also perpetuated them. Cards reinforced the image of the inferior and unimportant Negro Leagues. Furthermore, since they were considered children’s toys, baseball cards’ messages were rarely questioned–after all, few people think of baseball cards as ideologically charged items.

The cards reflect how the Negro Leagues were belittled by the press, historians and Major League Baseball. By the mid-1950s, baseball was desegregated and the Negro Leagues had declined in talent and economic importance, yet white Americans’ desire to evade racial issues still lingered. So, people continued to ignore the Negro Leagues. In this way, the anti-Negro League propaganda remained unexamined and the myths of inferiority were accepted as fact. Believing the propaganda, writers dismissed the Negro Leagues as unimportant to baseball’s history and soon the African-American institution became only a footnote read by more curious readers.

In this way, black baseball was gradually removed from sports history. Baseball history was rewritten to avoid references to its past policy of segregation, because this knowledge would challenge both baseball’s image and the concept of American freedom. This was not a conspiracy. Instead individual writers, who unknowingly adopted the “convenience of ignorance,” simply avoided the issue. A good example of this is Bob Trice’s 1954 Topps baseball card. The back of this card contains an interesting comic-strip style picture. It shows the black Trice swinging a bat with a white catch in the background. The caption reads “He quit one day to join the Homestead Grays semi-pro team.” As mentioned above, calling the 11-time Eastern Negro League champions “semi-pro” denies this African American institution its history; however, in this case the image is more revealing. The black teams played white teams during their barnstorming games but these games were of secondary importance. By depicting one of these interracial matches instead of a Negro League game, the card creates the image that baseball was not segregated. In this manner, individuals, without evil intentions, rewrote history to create a contradictory image that ignored segregation, but also championed baseball as America’s first important desegregater.

Conclusion

Baseball cards’ role in rendering the Negro Leagues invisible is an example of the broader phenomenon of rewriting American history exclude white racism and African-American contributions (Haley and X 174-75). Historians have extolled American virtues and glossed over its vices since the early-18th century. In particular, authors have rationalized of ignored slavery and the treatment of free blacks. is problem has far broad implications than just historical accuracy. It affects current race relations. By ignoring African-American contributions, these histories give the illusion that blacks played little role in America’s development and growth. This has two consequences.

First, it substantiates racist beliefs that blacks only impede American progress. Most white supremacists believe that America’s problems stem from the inferiority of non-European groups, and that blacks receive many benefits without making contributions. By not discussing the many black intellectual, economic and cultural contributions, popular histories’ silence support these views.

Second, it denies blacks a sense of their own historical accomplishments. These achievements remain buried because of their absence In popular histories, and the lack of documents and loss of oral histories within African-American communities. Although African-American oral tradition is rich, much was lost in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Many blacks chose to forget the injustices and indignities of the slave period. “Sarah Debro, once a slave in Orange County, North Carolina, put it bluntly: ‘My folks don’t want me to talk about slavery. They’s shame…[blacks] ever was slaves” (Hurmence ix). As a result, many African-American accomplishments under slavery were lost.

Malcolm X believed that the invisibility of blacks in history had important social effects on African Americans. “It’s a crime, the lie that has been told to generations of black men and white men both. Little innocent black children, born of parents who believed that their race had no history. Little black children seeing, before they could talk, that their parents considered themselves inferior. Innocent black children growing up, living out their lives, dying of old age—and all of their lives ashamed of being black” (Haley and X 181). While the black pride movement and newly formed African-American Studies departments have helped combat this problem, many African-American communities still lack a strong sense of the past. By recognizing how blacks are written out of history, and this action’s social consequences, we can tackle the problem. We must continue to write African Americans back into popular history so that knowledge of their achievements will establish blacks as equal partners in our country’s past.