Jackie Robinson: Civil Rights and Baseball Icon Dating back to Ancient Rome, segregation has remained a major part of society. Segregation can happen in many different ways such as racial or religious segregation. In the United States racial segregation was widely common after slavery due to Jim Crow Laws. One major event that helped to abolish segregation was baseball. Unsurpassed in popularity, baseball was a national craze during the 1860’s. It was commonly best referred to as America’s “National Past Time. With its growing popularity, more and more professional teams were being established until in 1876 the first Major League was organized. As with most things during that time period, baseball was notably segregated.
Although there were fully African American amateur and professional teams, there were no integrated teams until the 1940’s. Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play in the Major Leagues and officially break the “color line. Jackie Robinson was a civil rights activist who not only broke the color barrier in sports but also questioned the deeply rooted custom of segregation and paved the way for future African Americans. Early life experiences lead Jackie to make a difference in civil rights. During his college years Jackie took an interest in sports. “Robinson became an outstanding all-around athlete at Pasadena Junior College and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He excelled in football, basketball, and track as well as baseball” (“Jackie Robinson”). In college Jackie earned four varsity letters.
By doing so he proved that African Americans could be successful and achieve great things. Also, this experience was the foundation of Jackie’s sports career. After dropping out of college Jackie decided to join the U. S. Army. “He knew Robinson and black boxer Joe Louis had challenged the military’s rules against allowing black enlisted men to become officers, and Jackie had become a second lieutenant” (West). This is the first time Jackie took interest in civil rights. He stood up for what he believed in and in doing so gained the right to become an officer in the army. While still in the U. S.
Army Jackie again stood up for what he believed in. “Robinson faced court-martial in 1944 for refusing to follow an order that he sit at the back of a military bus” (“Jackie Robinson”). This is another incident that indicated Jackie would actively take part in civil rights. Once again he stood up for himself and African Americans knowing what the consequences would be for disobeying an order. Jackie’s early life indicated he would make a difference in civil rights. Jackie Robinson’s career in baseball hugely impacted racial segregation. Jackie was playing baseball for the Royals and his impressive season got him promoted to the Dodgers.
His debut game on April 15, 1947, marked the first time an African-American athlete played in the major leagues” (“About Jackie Robinson”). Jackie was taking a significant step in his life. By being on the team he had to withstand racial comments and not respond to them in a violent manner. Jackie proved to people that African Americans could be just as good at something as white people and that they are strong and will undergo anything to have civil rights. Jackie began playing for the Dodgers and showed he was more than the average player. “Leading the National League in stolen bases, he was chosen Rookie of the Year.
In 1949 he won the batting championship with a . 342 average and was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP)” (“Jackie Robinson”). Jackie Robinson towered over other players. His talent was astounding and exceeded that of others. He didn’t just settle for being the first African American to play in the major leagues, but instead he became one of the best baseball players of the year. He affirmed that African Americans should not be denied rights and that they can associate and be a component of the white society. During his career Jackie made a collection of friends. In one incident, while fans harassed Robinson from the stands, Reese walked over and put his arm around his teammate, a gesture that has become legendary in baseball history” (“About Jackie Robinson”). Jackie surprisingly made quite a few friends all of which were white. All of these friends supported Jackie and stood up for him when fans would harass him. This goes to show that African Americans and white people could get along just fine and work together, and that they didn’t need to be separated in society. Jackie Robinson strongly influenced segregation through his baseball career.
After his career in baseball Jackie Robinson continued to contest racial segregation. Jackie led a virtuous career in sports until it was time he quit. “After retiring from baseball early in 1957, Robinson engaged in business and in civil rights activism” (“Jackie Robinson”). Once his sports career stopped Jackie kept on going. He continued fighting for African American rights so future generations would not have to live in a segregated country. Jackie continued to take part in civil rights. “He was a spokesperson for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and made appearances with Martin Luther King, Jr. (“Jackie Robinson”). The NAACP is the largest civil rights organization. Jackie spoke on behalf of the people in the organization and represented them. Martin Luther King was one of the most prominent leaders of civil rights and Jackie worked with him to get equal rights for African Americans and generations to come. Jackie continued to be honored in baseball after his career. “Was the first African–American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962” (“About Jackie Robinson”). Being inducted into the hall of fame is one of the greatest honors in baseball.
Jackie Robinson was recognized as one of the best players of the time, which proves that the bias of African Americans was false and that they could out talent white people, and achieve great things. Even after his baseball career Jackie found ways to be apart of civil rights activism. Jackie Robinson led a successful career during his lifetime. Not only was he the first African American major league baseball player, but also he was a major civil rights activist. He challenged the idea of racial segregation and was one of the most influential people in abolishing segregation. He alone reached great heights and still today his legacy lives on. Jackie Robinson always said, “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being. ”
Works Cited “About Jackie Robinson. ” The Jackie Robinson Foundation. The Jackie Robinson Foundation. 2011. Web. 16 May 2012 “Jackie Robinson. ” Encyclopedia Britannica’s Guide to Black History. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2012. Web. 16 May 2012. West, Jean. “Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson: Interview Essay. ” The History of Jim Crow. n. p. n. d. Web. 16 May 2012.