Jackie Robinson: The Man Who Changed History

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Jackie Robinson forever changed American history by overcoming many obstacles, mainly being segregation and proved to all of America that the color of skin was irrelevant, and you can be what you want to be no matter what race. Jackie was the first black professional baseball player in a time of major racial segregation in America. He was born into a poor black family in Cairo, Georgia to a family of sharecroppers and then moved to California. He has dealt with racial segregation and bigotry all his life including his professional career. Jackie used all this hate and publicity to his advantage and became involved with the civil rights movement by helping activist such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. He also became involved with government and business as well as trying to help the young black population be successful and remain off the streets.

Segregation was very relevant during the rise of Jackie Robinson. America and the Jim Crow laws segregated the black population from the white. According to YAWP, “White southerners took back control of state and local governments and used their reclaimed power to disenfranchise African Americans and pass “Jim Crow” laws segregating schools, transportation, employment, and various public and private facilities” American Yawp, chapter 18, section 4 (iv), paragraph 3). “White America deemed the professional game off limits to African Americans, just as the US Supreme Court laid down to “separate but equal” principle that legalized racial segregation throughout the nation under its 1896 Plessy V. Ferguson decision (Zeiler Introduction,5).

Jackie faced these laws before he even began his professional career in the United States Army. Jackie was arrested during his time as a lieutenant because it was illegal for blacks to sit in the front of the bus and when he was ordered to move, he refused (Zeiler introduction, 13). during his professional career one being with a police officer while on the bench. The police officer said, “Git him off’en thet there bench. He can’t sit there, They’s white boys a-sittin’ there. Thet’s agin the law too” (Zeiler source 9,66). This was said shortly after the officer threatened to throw him in jail because he cannot play ball with the whites.

The baseball league had many challenges with integration. Jim crow laws along with pure hatred of blacks across America is what challenged integration to be a challenge. The Mayors committee on baseball mentioned obstacles such as blacks being accepted into hotels with the team, traditional prejudice in southern states which may result in violence, teamwork, new player recruitment and lastly, public relations (Zeiler 4,54). These difficulties were very real and created a serious challenge for the integration.

A black man in white baseball was not only new to the league but new to the American society as well. During this time the civil rights movement was very strong and active. The civil rights movement was a struggle by African Americans in the mid-1950s to late 1960s to achieve Civil Rights equal to those of whites, including equal opportunity in employment, housing, and education, as well as the right to vote, the right of equal access to public facilities, and the right to be free of racial discrimination. Blacks were fighting for equality, but whites did not want to give it. The integration of baseball was huge for civil rights due to blacks having the equal rights to play professional baseball with whites.

Though that was not clean cut and simple because most of America was against it including part of the league. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) urged blacks in places like Savannah to refrain from attending games because the Savannah Ball Club and the city council did not support “negro fans or the negro population (Zeiler 11,72). Some people and teams went deliberately did things to spite the fact an African American was in the league. The Louisville players during the little world series deliberately tried to slide into base and spike Robinson as well as not publishing any pictures in the press when they were released (Zeiler 14.78)

The response to a negro baseball player were mostly positive in the black communities but there was much hate in white America. Jackie Robinson had love from some but strong hate from others and received many threats. Some wrote letters that read things like; “we are going to kill you if you attempt to enter a ball game at Crosley Field” (Zeiler 23,96). Jackie did not pay any serious attention to these threats. He stated to the public that he received threatening letters but concluded with, “by the way they were written, they’re from scattered-brained people who just want something to yelp about” (Zeiler 24,98).

Some people praised and admired Jackie as he showed hope in the Civil Rights movement along with baseball and Americas future. “One guy started praising you and cited the great fight and progress you have made in baseball. All the other guys agreed 100%”, stated James A. Mannix (Zeiler 26,101). Not all talk was negative as a lot of controversy was circulated Jackie made a name for himself and gave a role model to the black community.

The Cold war and Civil Rights movement was ironic at least. The U.S was criticized for not providing equal right for all its citizen while ironically fighting for equal rights of people in the third world country against the Soviet Union. This caused the government to want to end the Civil Rights Movement. Jackie made a statement to the house about Un-American activities. He told the house that “he may not be an expert on communism” “but you can put me down as being an expert on being a colored American, with thirty years of experience at it” (Zeiler 32,113). Jackie then explained, blacks were upset before a communist party existed and that they will still be upset even after it ended until Jim Crow was gone (Zeiler 32,114). Blacks were against communism just as much as whites but they recognized that America had it’s own problems as well.

Jackie Robinson not only changed American baseball for ever he also changed many lives and helped shape the America we know today. He fought on and off the field for what is right. Jackie received threats and harassment, but it did not stop him as he inspired many. “He had broken the color barrier in major league baseball” (Zeiler 43,135). After Jackie’s passing from a heart attack Rabbi A. James Rudin stated,

“The untimely death of Jackie Robinson robbed America of one of its great leading fighters for human rights. For some, Jackie Robinson will always remain number 42 of the old Brooklyn dodgers, a magnificent competitor and the first black to play MLB, and authentic culture hero who dramatically reshaped American life” (Zeiler 44,137).

Overcoming many obstacles including segregation. He proved to all of America that the color of skin was irrelevant, and you can be what you want to be no matter what race. He was not only the first African American to play Major League baseball outside of a segregated black league. He became a living milestone for racial equality and changed the sport of baseball forever.

Works Cited

  1. Locke, Joseph L., and Ben Wright. The American Yawp: a Massively Collaborative Open U.S. History Textbook. Stanford University Press, 2019.
  2. Zeiler, Thomas W. Jackie Robinson and Race in America: a Brief History with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2014.

Cite this paper

Jackie Robinson: The Man Who Changed History. (2021, Nov 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/jackie-robinson-the-man-who-changed-history/

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