Mo'ne Davis became a household name during the 2014 Little League World Series when she helped lead the Taney Dragons from Pennsylvania to the U.S. semifinal. She became the first girl to pitch a shutout and the first African-American girl to play in the World Series. Since last August, her stardom has continued to grow.
Touching history and meeting people that were involved in the movement, and seeing where these events took place, ... it's really been incredible.Steve Bandura, Monarchs head coach
The 14-year-old Davis graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, met President Obama, released a memoir, threw out the first pitch at Game 4 of the World Series, played in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, was named "SportsKid Of The Year" by Sports Illustrated Kids and was selected by the Associated Press as Female Athlete of the Year
As if she hadn't done enough before she was old enough to drive a car, Davis and her teammates recently finished up a 23-day civil rights barnstorming tour that spanned as far south as Montgomery, Ala., as far north as Cooperstown, N.Y., and as far west as Cincinnati, Ohio.
The 4,000-mile trip was taken in a black-and-white, 1947 Flxible Clipper touring bus — the same model once used by teams from the Negro leagues. There was no air-conditioning in the vehicle, and electronics were banned throughout the trip.
The Monarchs took another road trip back in 2012 to Kansas City to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Monarchs head coach Steve Bandura recently told the Tuscaloosa News that getting to see and touch the historical sites was even better than learning about the history at a museum:
"It is one thing to see it on TV and to read about it. But it's a whole other thing to get out there and touch it, and that is what this is about, touching history and meeting people that were involved in the movement, and seeing where these events took place, and standing where these events took place. It's really been incredible.”
In preparation for the journey, the team began meeting each Friday starting in December to learn about the Civil Rights Movement.
"We watched documentaries," Bandura told The Washington Post. "We read books. We had discussions. And now we’re going to get to touch that history.”
After departing from hometown Philadelphia, the bus took the team to Washington, D.C. There they toured the White House and met with John Lewis, a Congressman and civil rights leader from Georgia. Lewis told the team about his experience marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. over Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. (The team visited the bridge later in their trip).
Monarchs outfielder Zion Spearman told The Washington Post that the speech touched his heart.
"[Lewis] said if he could go back and change his life knowing everything that happened, he would still go on the bridge," Spearman said. "He stands up for what he knows is right.”
Bandura, who has coached many of the Monarch players for years, often reminded his team that young adults were an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement.
"I want to send the message that young people can effect change and need to effect change," Bandura told The New York Times, "especially with the state of our nation after all of the recent racial incidents."
Tamir Brooks, an infielder on the team, told the Tuscaloosa News that it was extremely powerful visiting the historical sites, especially the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. In 1963, four girls of a similar age to most of the Monarchs players were killed in a bombing at the church:
“The experience has been really great because we've got to go places where Dr. Martin Luther King has been and so many historic sites such as the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Going to Birmingham, where the bombing site was, being 14 myself and thinking about it, you never know when you could lose your life, so you always want to enjoy it.”
The team played games against teams in the cities they visited. But Bandura said the main purpose of the trip was educational.