Jimmie Lee Solomon founded the Civil Rights Game in 2007. The Game, played annually, works in conjunction with awareness events and honors baseball’s relationship to the Civil Rights movement.
Solomon established the annual Civil Rights Game in response to the decreasing number of African-Americans in MLB, with the intention of paying homage to and reminding the league of its rich legacy of minority players.
The prolific relationship between major league baseball and civil rights began in 1947, when Jackie Robinson crossed the color line and joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson’s move signaled the advent of a new era of integration within the league, opening doors not only for African-Americans, but all minority baseball players. Ever since, The Game has been inextricably associated with the civil rights movement.
In 2007, the inaugural Civil Rights Game was held at the AutoZone park in Memphis, TN, the city in which Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The Game became a part of the MLB regular season in 2009. The game is an opportunity for its players to recognize the people, of all races, who blazed the trail for them in baseball, and express their gratitude toward them. Teams who participate in the games traditionally wear uniforms reminiscent of the old Negro League teams that represented their city, or throwback uniforms of their current teams, to display their reverence for those who came before them.
The Game serves as an anchor for other events whose purpose is to spread awareness of baseball’s ties to the Civil Rights movement and catch the attention of minorities in the industry, along with those who wish to break into it. The most significant of these events is the presentation of the Beacon Awards, which honor three people who have contributed significantly in the civil rights arena. The three awards are the Beacon of Life, Beacon of Hope and Beacon of Change, and recipients have included Spike Lee, Ruby Dee, Muhammad Ali, Bill Cosby, Willie Mays, Carlos Santana, Morgan Freeman, and members of Earth, Wind and Fire. This recognition of the strides they have taken to improve race relations in the US inspires younger and future generations to continue their work.
By reintroducing the bond between MLB and civil rights into the national consciousness, Solomon’s Civil Rights Game reminds us of the profound impact the sport has had on this nation’s history. The pioneers of baseball disregarded their differences in an effort to work toward a common dream of a fair league with the best players available, period. This example of unity embodies the values that have given the United States such strong foundation and continued prosperity, and proves that baseball has, and always will be the true Great American Pastime.
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Photo’s for the inception dinner: See more at in pictures.