Research for Effa, a picture book I'm currently illustrating for HC, led back to one of my favorite childhood movies — Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings. I had no idea back then that this fictional movie was inspired by real life baseball teams, owners, players and events from the American Negro Leagues.
Apparently, Bingo Long's character was inspired by Satchel Paige. The Traveling Allstars and Motor Kings were inspired by the Indianapolis Clowns. Joe Callaway 'Esquire' loosely represented Jackie Robinson. And the character of Bertha Dewitt, a Negro League team owner, was inspired by Effa Manley. When I first discovered this yesterday, I thought, "Bingo!— just the reference I needed!" But after watching the movie again, I realized how far off the mark they were.
In the movie, the character supposedly inspired by Effa Manley was a villain, the butt of fat jokes who cheated, abused, and took advantage of Negro League players. While it's entirely possible and maybe even probable that some Negro League owners took advantage of their players, that's not what Effa Manley was known for.
Effa Manley was a hero who fought for the rights and equality of Negro League players. Her team, the Newark Eagles, wore the best uniforms and had the best of traveling accommodations. She was a social activist and a tireless fighter in the Civil Rights movement.
I'm so happy that Audrey wrote a story that sets the record straight.