This is an authentic signed baseball from former Negro League baseball player Luther "Luke" Atkinson. The ball was signed at an autograph show in March 2006. Luther "Luke" Atkinson was #20, a stand-out performer for the Wilson, North Carolina All Stars, the Carolina Tigers, and the Satchel Paige All-Stars, who played baseball in the Negro Leagues from 1955 to 1960, starting his career right out of high school. As of spring 2018, Mr. Atkinson, who lives in Maryland, remains an active volunteer in the newly opened, Hubert V. Simmons Museum of Negro Leagues Baseball, Inc., at the new Owings Mills Metro Centre Complex.
A brief history of the Negro League:
African Americans first began to play baseball in the late 1800s on military teams, college teams, and company teams, eventually finding their way to the established professional baseball teams of white players. However, racism and “Jim Crow” laws would force African Americans from these teams by 1900, with black players left to form their own teams.
In 1920, an organized league structure was formed under the guidance of Andrew “Rube” Foster, a former player, manager, and owner for the Chicago American Giants. In a meeting held at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City, Mo., Foster and several other Midwestern team owners joined to form the Negro National League. Soon, rival leagues formed in Eastern and Southern states, which brought black baseball to major urban centers and to rural countrysides in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. The Leagues maintained a high level of professional skill and inspired economic development in many black communities.
In 1945, when Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers recruited Jackie Robinson from the Kansas City Monarchs, Robinson became the first African American in the modern era to play on a Major League roster. While this historic event was a key moment in baseball and civil rights history, it marked the decline of the Negro Leagues. The best black players began to be recruited for the Major Leagues with their black fans following them, and the last Negro Leagues teams folded in the early 1960s.