Black History Month Spotlight
Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, GA in 1931. "He was the youngest of five children–raised by his mother Mallie." "After graduation from High School, Jackie attended Pasadena Junior College, participating in four sports: basketball, football, baseball and track." "Jackie left Pasadena Junior College to attend UCLA, where he also participated and starred in the same four sports."
"Because of financial difficulties, Jackie would leave UCLA before finishing his degree." He would travel to Honolulu, Hawaii, playing semi professional football for the Honolulu Bears. "Shortly after WWII broke out, Jackie discontinued playing for the Bears and entered the U.S. Military–serving as a Second Lieutenant in the Army." Jackie did not see combat while in the Army. "While in boot camp he refused to give up his seat on a segregated bus and as a result was arrested and Court-Martialed." "Jackie's reputation, support of friends and the work of the NAACP led to the charges being dismissed and Jackie given an honorable discharge from the Army in 1944."
After being released from the Army in 1944, Jackie began playing baseball in what was known at the time as the Negro League. Black players were not allowed to be a part of Major League Baseball. Shortly after Jackie began playing in the Negro League, he was approached by Branch Ricky of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Ricky identified Jackie as a very talented baseball player and believed that Jackie had the temperament needed (and would be able to endure the harassment) to break down the racial barrier that existed in professional baseball, which indeed Jackie did.
Breaking down the racial barrier in baseball would not be easy for Jackie. When the Dodgers played games on the road, Jackie would not (always) be allowed to stay in the hotel with his teammates or eat at restaurants with them; when this occurred, alternate sleeping arrangements had to be made for Jackie and food brought to him.
When playing baseball, the opposing fans would throw bottles and other items at Jackie while also shouting racial slurs at him. Players from the opposing teams would try to trip him, dig the spikes from their shoes into his legs, and would make nasty comments to Jackie. When Jackie played at home things were not that much better. Dodger fans would also shout racial slurs at him and members of his own team would treat him disrespectfully–both in the locker room and on the field.
Jackie never retaliated when mistreated; he simply went out and played baseball, proving that he was very talented–his batting average and stolen base percentage was high and his fielding error rate was low. Jackie's attitude and skill finally won over the support and admiration of the other baseball players and fans. "In 1955 Jackie helped the Dodgers win the World Series; he was inducted into the Baseball hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1962; and the Dodgers retired his number '42' in 1972."
Jackie Robinson helped to break down the racial barrier that existed in Major League baseball in America and served as a reminder to all Americans that (as Dr. Martin Luther King said) a man should be judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin.
Information contained in this article was gleaned from the following sites:
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