The Negro Southern League was created in 1920 by a group of African-American businessmen and baseball enthusiasts. From 1920 until its demise in 1951, the Negro Southern League served as a feeder route for many great black baseball players to go on to the Negro American League and Negro National League.
The league was formed in a meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Frank Perdue of Birmingham was elected the first president of the league. Other officers were R.H. Tabor, Nashville, vice president; Prof. W.M. Brooks, Knoxville, Secretary; and W.J. Shaw, Atlanta, treasurer.
Among the many players this minor league sent on to the black “major” leagues are five Hall of Fame members: Willie Mays, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, Hilton Smith, Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, and George “Mule” Suttles.
Other lesser known but equally outstanding players in their time included pitcher John “Steel Arm” Dickey, who once won 25 games in a row; one-armed Forest “Wing” Maddox, who both pitched and played in the outfield; Buford “Geechie” Meredith, an infielder who played with Birmingham so long he was actually listed in the city directory as “ball player.” There were even baseball families such as the five Henderson brothers in Chattanooga and in Montgomery, Marion “Dad” Cunningham and his sons, Herman and Johnnie.
It is likely that more Negro Southern League players came out of Birmingham’s extensive industrial league than from any other source. That is why the industrial league is a big part of the Negro Southern League Museum.
The initial lineup of eight teams was the Atlanta Black Crackers, Birmingham Black Barons, Jacksonville Stars, Knoxville Giants, Montgomery Grey Sox, Nashville White Sox, New Orleans Caulfield Ads, Pensacola Giants. Over the years more than 80 teams were members of the league. Some, like Birmingham and the Memphis Red Sox, were involved for many years; others, like the Indianapolis Cardinals, only played one season in the Negro Southern League.