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Black Diamond | Darryl Matthews - 3D virtual exhibition by Drinking Gourd Gallery

Black Diamond | Darryl Matthews

Sa, 06/19/2021Sa, 09/25/2021

curated by:

Baseball has a rich, storied history. When the sport was initially organized in the 1860s, some African-Americans like Bud Fowler took their place on the diamond alongside their white counterparts. However, it would not be long before segregation, Jim Crow laws and "gentleman's agreements" between team owners put an end to this practice. Not to be deterred, African-Americans formed their own teams and began barnstorming across the country in search of competitors. Their games drew crowds and devoted fans, but the circuit was loosely organized. In 1906, the International League of Independent Base Ball Clubs formed in Philadelphia, but it folded after a year. Another attempt to form a league with Chicago teams was also not successful. But former Leland Giants' pitcher Andrew "Rube" Foster who owned the American Giants' believed a viable league could be formed for players of color, and he worked in earnest to convince his fellow owners of the soundness of his idea. The owners came together in 1920 at the YMCA in Kansas City, Missouri to establish the Negro National League (1920-31, 1933-48). The Negro National League launched with eight teams: Chicago American Giants, Chicago Giants, Cuban Stars, Dayton Marcos, Detroit Stars, Kansas City Monarchs, Indianapolis ABCs and the St. Louis Giants. This spurred the development of rival organizations, including the Negro Southern League (1920-51), Eastern Colored League (1923-28), East-West League (1932) and the Negro American League (1937-60). From 1924 through 1927, then later from 1942-1948, the NNL and ECL champions came together for a match up at the Negro Leagues World Series. In the 1930s, the Great Depression presented a challenge for the country and the Negro Leagues. The NNL rebounded in 1933 under the leadership of W.A. "Gus" Greenlee who was a numbers-game and tavern owner. During World War II, Negro Leagues baseball flourished and became a $2 million business. In addition to the eight teams that initially formed the NNL, other notable teams included the Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Cuban Giants, Asheville Royal Giants, Durham Black Sox, Raleigh Tigers, New York Cubans, Brown Dodgers,  Newark Eagles, Goshen Redwings, Philadelphia Giants, Charlotte Quick Steps, Memphis Red Sox, the Indianapolis Clowns, and many others.

Black Diamond is a solo exhibition featuring works by artist Darryl Matthews who is the son of late Negro Leagues player Francis Oliver Matthews. The exhibition provides an intimate view of the Negro Leagues history through a collection of works featuring players such as Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige, James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Francis Oliver Matthews, Jackie Robinson, and female players Toni Stone, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, and Connie Morgan. The memorabilia in the exhibition focuses primarily on Francis Oliver Matthews and captures the Negro Leagues as they were—through the games, players, and places. In December 2020, Major League Baseball (MLB) recognized the Negro Leagues as Major Leaguers. All 3,400 players from 1920 to 1948 were elevated to MLB status—100 years after the start of the Negro Leagues. The pronouncement is significant for a group of legends who broke new ground and paved the way for future generations. The Black Diamond exhibition celebrates these legends and all that they accomplished and symbolized.  

Black Diamond was organized by Drinking Gourd Gallery and is curated by gallerist Carol Torian.

Sources: The Society for American Baseball Research, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, National Baseball Hall of Fame, Major League Baseball, Encyclopedia Britannica, Library of Congress, National Public Radio, Satchel Paige Foundation, Buck Leonard Association for Sports and Human Enrichment, Josh Gibson Foundation, Jackie Robinson Foundation, Leon Day Foundation, and the Newark Public Library were the primary research sources for the biographical information presented in the artwork exhibition labels.

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