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Whitmer signs bill designating Negro Leagues Day in Michigan

FILE - A worker passes by a display during a media tour at the Play Ball Park exhibit at the Colorado Convention Center staged by Major League Baseball as part of the festivities leading up to the All Star Game Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Denver. The convention center has been turned into a paradise for baseball aficionados complete with batting cages, an onsite home run derby, items from the Hall of Fame and countless merchandise for sale for baseball fans from far and near at the store. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/AP
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AP
FILE - A worker passes by a display during a media tour at the Play Ball Park exhibit at the Colorado Convention Center staged by Major League Baseball as part of the festivities leading up to the All Star Game Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Denver. The convention center has been turned into a paradise for baseball aficionados complete with batting cages, an onsite home run derby, items from the Hall of Fame and countless merchandise for sale for baseball fans from far and near at the store. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

State Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit) celebrated Juneteenth this year by showing up at a historic ballpark, watching as her bill to celebrate Michigan’s Negro Leagues was signed into law.

Her bill establishes May 2 as Negro Leagues Day in Michigan and honors Michigan players – including one of her uncles – and teams who were among the best in the country.

“They were not just players,” Scott said. “They were pioneers and ambassadors of change. Today, the MLB incorporates statistics of these notable players into their league, showcasing their undeniable talent and history that could have been. When these athletes were shut out of the major leagues, they still found a way to play the game and they played it well.”

The bill was signed at Hamtramck Stadium, which was the home field for the Detroit Stars and the Detroit Wolves in the 1930s. The ballpark is one of five remaining Negro Leagues parks still standing.

Whitmer said celebrating Negro Leagues Day recognizes the injustice of segregated sports but also players’ accomplishment on the field.

“We acknowledge players who made history and honor their memories,” she said. “Everyone deserves to play and every story deserves to be told and remembered.”

The bill signing was timed to coincide with the celebration of Juneteenth, which commemorates the day on June 19,1865, that news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War was delivered to Galveston, Texas.

Juneteenth was not the end of legal slavery in the U.S. because the Emancipation Proclamation only applied to states that had revolted and joined the Confederacy. The 13th Amendment that ended slavery was ratified months later on December 6, 1865.

Whitmer signed a bill last year to make Juneteenth an official state holiday. Juneteenth has been a federal holiday since 2021 under a bill signed by President Joe Biden.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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