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American Giants

American Giants

Rube Foster, 1909
During the half century that baseball was segregated by race, black America created its own major leagues. These Negro Leagues showcased black competence and grace at a time when African Americans were denied other opportunities. No team better conveyed black baseball's history than the American Giants, who, for four decades, were central to black Chicago, especially as the Great Migration swelled its ranks. Chicago, in turn, was the center of black baseball during the 1920s and home to its most important annual event, the East–West all-star game, in the 1930s and '40s.

After the 1910 season, player-manager Andrew “Rube” Foster left the Leland Giants to form the American Giants, who began play in 1911. Perhaps the best black team of the 1920s, the Giants sometimes outplayed and outdrew the White Sox and the Cubs. Relying on speed, defense, and pitching and billed as “The Greatest Aggregation of Colored Baseball Players in the World,” the Giants prospered on and off the field. In addition to battling white semi-pro, major league, and Negro League teams, the Giants barnstormed their way across the country and even played in Cuba.

In 1920, Foster founded the first stable black league, the Negro National League (NNL). His Giants won NNL championships in 1920, 1921, 1922, 1926, and 1927. The team later played in the Negro Southern League, the second Negro National League, and then the Negro American League (1937–1952).

For 42 seasons, the American Giants were a source of pride and cohesion to black Chicago. After the 1952 season, in the wake of major league baseball's reintegration, the team disbanded.

Clark, Dick, and Larry Lester, eds. The Negro Leagues Book. 1994.
Rogosin, Donn. Invisible Men: Life in Baseball's Negro Leagues. 1983.