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The Negro Leagues Paintings of Elise Dodeles
Fall/Winter 2008-2009 at Rohrbach Library and the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum

Voices and Choices Center
Rohrbach Library 100B   •   610-683-4766

Exhibit booklet (PDF)

Rohrbach Library home

Poster for Negro Leagues exhibit and speakers

   For many years, the work of painter Elise Dodeles (MFA, New York Academy of Art) has displayed a fascination with  the athleticism of largely forgotten heroes of the earlyErnie Banks, by Elise Dodeles Ernie Banks, by Elise Dodeles.  "Mister Cub," perhaps the greatest name in Chicago's rich baseball history, began his career with the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs.

and mid-twentieth century. Working from black-and-white archive photos she captures the timeless dignity of athletes, from prizefighters to collegiate rowers to circus acrobats, with an uncanny recognition of their timeless intensity imbued with a sense of mythic innocence, of idealistic purity.  Some of her notable portraits of Negro Leagues baseballers made up a
Hank Aaron, by Elise Dodeles.  The man who bravely played through racist threats and hatred to break Babe Ruth's legendary career home run record is shown here at age 18 in the uniform of the Indianapolis Clowns.

star-studded nine on the walls of Rohrbach Library, and then the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum in Reading, from November 2008 to March 2009. Both exhibits featured historical memorabilia and books to help illustrate a peculiar era in American history when the best players of the National Pastime were excluded from the sport's upper echelons yet played their hearts out for sheer love of the game.


In Rohrbach Library, Bob Scott, at left, reminisces about playing with Larry Doby as Lawrence Hogan looks on. Doby was the first Negro Leaguer to play in the American League, joining the Cleveland Indians after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League.  (Ed Landrock photo)  

   Bob Scott, a star pitcher with the New York Black Yankees and his friend, leading Negro Leagues chronicler Dr. Lawrence Hogan, spoke at KU on Dec. 4.  Hogan signed copies of his book Shades of Glory, and Scott delighted guests with his witty anecdotes and
Bob Scott and Larry Hogan share a laugh in the Student Union Building before leading their audience to Rohrbach Library.  (Ed Landrock photo)

autographed memorabilia.  He had been featured in Geoff Gehman's widely reprinted Nov. 29 profile in the Allentown Morning Call. In January, he and Hogan were seen on national television in the MLB Network's Pride and Perseverance documentary.   

   In early 2009 the paintings moved to the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum (CPAAM) in Reading, where they stayed through February's celebration of Black History Month.  The CPAAM is upstairs at the Old Bethel AME church; its cellar served as a hiding place for escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad. CPAAM curator and director Frank and Mildred Gilyard hosted an overflow audience on February 14 for a presentation by oral historian Dr. Bob Allen.  Allen has collected audio and video interviews with nearly every surviving Negro Leagues player.  Attendees were treated to not only the generous array of snacks provided by the museum, but also to the presence of pitcher Willie 


Bob Scott, hard-throwing hurler for the NY Black Yankees and Jackie Robinson's Traveling All-Stars, was chosen in a symbolic 2008 draft of Negro Leagers by the NY Mets, the lifelong favorites of painter Elise Dodeles. (Ed Landrock photo)

Links of interest
  • Elise Dodeles gallery
  • Central Pennsylvania African American Museum website
  • Reading Eagle feature on Bob Allen's CPAAM talk with a gallery of paintings & photos 
  • The Souls of Black Baseball website with streaming interviews of Negro Leagues luminaries by Bob Allen
  • Rohrbach Library Negro Leagues resource guide

Fordham and outfielder Jim Weedon, both of whom played for the Harrisburg Black Giants. (The Black Giants merit a special footnote in baseball history: as  Curator Frank Gilyard and guest Bob Allen appear before a standing-room-only CPAAM audience for Allen's The Souls of Black Baseball: Barnstorming the Keystone State presentation (Hajime Yukawa photos) 

the sun set on the Negro Leagues in the 1950s, Harrisburg's team was the first formerly black squad to add white players.) Allen showed interviews he had done with the two guests and with many others. His talk was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council's Commonwealth Speakers series.

Feedback & suggestions: rjensen@kutztown.edu

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