Early Life

James "Cool Papa" Bell 
The Color Barrier

Early Life

Cool Papa Bell was born on May 17, 1903. He grew up on a farm in a little town called Starksvill, Mississippi. His Father, Jonas Bell, was a farmer. He tragicaly died and his mother, Mary Nicholas, was left to tend to her seven children. At this point in time if you were widowed, you were looked down upon. Dispite her hardships, she raised some fine young men some of who would eventually go into the Negro Baseball Leagues. 


While Bell was growing up he did not have the best schooling. He stopped going to school as a teenager and went to work instaed. He worked at the local creamery at what is now Mississippi State University. He moved to St. Louis to go to night school with his older brothers but most of the time he would skip school and play baseball.

What a school back then might have looked like.

What a baseball diamond looked like back then.


Bell faced many racial boundaries. He grew up in the South in the 1910's. The segregation that he faced was harsh. He would get made fun of because of his skin color and people would yell at him. Playing baseball as an African American in the segregated south was difficult. It was hard to find places to stay and eat on the road. Despite the hardships, he perservered and continued to play the game that he loved.  

Segregated bathrooms that Cool Papa Bell had to encounter everyday