Newark library celebrates Black History Month with exhibit featuring black athletes

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A new exhibit focusing on black athletes opened at the Newark Public Library on Tuesday.

Among the displays are portraits of boxing legends Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis. It is all part of the library’s celebration of Black History Month.

"The Black Athlete in America: Protest, Activism and Inclusion,” exhibit tells stories of athletes in many professional and college sports through photos and artifacts.

Curator Dale Colston, of the Newark Public Library, put the exhibit together. It features famous athletes, as well as unsung heroes who may have not made millions, but did make a difference in sports history.

“I hope that they find something from the other people we’ve tried to highlight – the lesser-known,” says Colston. “Maybe a coach they hadn’t heard of or someone from the front office who they had no idea was that important in Black American sports.”

People featured in the exhibit include New Jersey tennis great Althea Gibson, the Williams sisters, Rutgers football star and civil rights pioneer Paul Robeson and Rutgers Women’s Basketball Coach C. Vivian Stringer – all focusing on the achievements and struggles of the athletes.

“The background, the discrimination, moving forward, integration, problems today – all of the whole history exposed and documented,” says interim library director Tom Alrutz.

Special attention is given to the Negro League, including the Newark Eagles team. The exhibit features a 1948 photo of Eagles slugger Lenny Pearson and a baseball autographed by Eagles player Monte Irvin.

The exhibit will be up through the end of April with special programming during Black History Month.

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