Major league baseball had an unwritten rule dating to the 1880s prohibiting black and white ballplayers from playing against each other in regular-season contests. Black players continued to play professionally on all-black teams, sometimes facing white teams, but did not have a successful formal league until 1920. By the end of the 1930s, the two premier black leagues – the Negro National League and Negro American League – ran a thriving business, playing a busy regular season and boasting extraordinary talent.
Life in the Negro Leagues was not easy. Black players were poorly paid and endured difficult travel and living conditions. The gradual but inevitable demise of the Negro Leagues after the integration of the major leagues in 1947 was bittersweet, however. Black baseball had been a great source of community pride and entertainment as well as commercial success in black society.