All American: The Power of Sports

Friday, September 16, 2022 - Sunday, January 7, 2024
Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery

All American: The Power of Sports All American Logo

The power of sports has many applications. Sports unite people, teach values, and inspire hope and pride. In the United States, sports have powered efforts to bring citizens together, shape them, and project a vision of what it means to be American. But sports convey power to athletes too—power to break social barriers and protest injustice. All American explores the power of sports both to embody our national ideals and challenge us to live up to them.

About the Exhibit

All American is free and open to the public and will be on display in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, through January 7, 2024. This 3,000-square-foot exhibit will showcase more than 75 items including original records, artifacts, and photographs.

Highlights will include original sports equipment and jerseys given by star athletes to Presidents, early 20th-century tobacco baseball cards, trophies, rare pictures and film footage, patents, and more!

All American examines the Power of Sports through four sections:

  • Section 1: The Power to Unite - explore how sports unite citizens and inspire patriotism.
  • Section 2: The Power to Teach - discover the use of sports to teach American values.
  • Section 3: The Power to Break Barriers - learn how sports bridge social divides.
  • Section 4: The Power to Promote - see athletes aid diplomacy around the world and protest inequality at home.

Visitors will be able to:

  • See the original Title IX that prohibits sex discrimination in education (on limited display).
  • Learn why Presidents pitch Opening Day baseballs and host champions at the White House, and see the New York Fire Department jacket worn by President Bush to pitch at Yankee Stadium after the attacks of 9/11.
  • Glimpse rare footage of WWI soldiers trying out sports in training, on ships, and "over there."
  • "Meet" the trailblazers--historic athletes who cleared roadblocks, shattered stereotypes, and paved the way for today's titans.
  • See how the pandemic affected pro-baseball and diminished World Series players and crowds--in 1918!
  • Learn how President Roosevelt "green lighted" professional baseball to lift morale during World War II.
  • Discover how Indigenous students at Native American boarding schools and Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II used sports to elevate morale and proclaim their identities.
  • Learn the mystery of the recently discovered photos of a championship-winning Black football team at West Point in 1926--four decades before the school's team was integrated until 1966!
  • View pages from boxer Jack Johnson's handwritten autobiography.
  • Find out why Jim Thorpe's 1912 Olympic gold medals were revoked, and see the replica medals that were finally restored to his family in 1982.
  • See historic sports trophies including Althea Gibson's 1958 Wimbledon trophy (on loan from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History) and the 1929 West Point Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) Football Championship Trophy (on loan courtesy of Ron Pomfrey) displayed for the first time.
  • Read letters written by Jackie Robinson to promote civil rights. 


Featured Documents



Exhibit Credits

All American: The Power of Sports is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of AT&T, AARP, and Mars, Incorporated. Additional support provided by HISTORY® and the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family. Opening Month support provided by Anheuser-Busch. 

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