He’s an icon!
Jackie Robinson was a pioneering figure in sports, making history multiple times over and becoming the first Black person to integrate Major League Baseball, Biography.com reports. The youngest of five children, he was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia and raised by a single mother. Robinson was inspired to pursue a career in sports because of his older brother Matthew who won a silver medal in the 200-meter dash, coming in just behind Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. To learn more about the southern native and his extraordinary life, here are 5 important things you never learned about Jackie Robinson:
Robinson became UCLA’s first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports.
“He attended John Muir High School in Pasadena, California, and Pasadena Junior College, where he was an excellent athlete and played four sports: football, basketball, track and baseball. He was named the region’s Most Valuable Player in baseball in 1938…Robinson continued his education at UCLA where he became the university’s first student to win varsity letters in [all four of those sports].”
He was discharged as a second lieutenant in the United States Army for refusing to give up his seat on a segregated bus.
Robinson had to leave UCLA just before graduating due to financial constraints. He then moved to Honolulu, Hawaii where he played football for the semi-pro team, the Honolulu Bears. Mid-season, he was drafted by the United States Army to serve in World War II.
“From 1942 to 1944, Robinson served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. However, he never saw combat.
During boot camp at Fort Hood, Texas, Robinson was arrested and court-martialed in 1944 for refusing to give up his seat and move to the back of a segregated bus. Robinson’s excellent reputation, combined with the efforts of friends, the NAACP, and various Black newspapers, shed public light on the injustice.
Ultimately, he was acquitted of the charges and received an honorable discharge. His courage and moral objection to racial segregation were precursors to the impact Robinson would have in Major League Baseball.”
Jackie Robinson made history as the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in 1947.
“After his discharge from the Army in 1944, Robinson began to play baseball professionally. At the time, the sport was segregated…Robinson began playing in the Negro Leagues, but he was soon chosen by Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to help integrate Major League Baseball. He joined the all-white Montreal Royals, a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1946. Robinson later moved to Florida to begin spring training with the Royals.
Rickey knew there would be difficult times ahead for the young athlete, and so made Robinson promise to not fight back when confronted with racism. Rickey also personally tested Robinson’s reactions to the racial slurs and insults he knew the player would endure.
From the beginning of his career with the Dodgers, Robinson’s will was tested. Some of his new teammates objected to having an African American on their team. People in the crowds sometimes jeered Robinson, and he and his family received threats.
Despite the racial abuse, particularly at away games, Robinson had an outstanding start with the Royals, leading the International League with a .349 batting average and a .985 fielding percentage. His successful year led to his promotion to join the Dodgers.
Robinson played his first game at Ebbets field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, making history as the first Black athlete to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century.”
He was a committed activist for civil rights.
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Jackie Robinson wrote a letter to every president in office from 1956-1972, advocating for African-Americans’ civil rights. On May 13, 1958, he wrote this letter to President Dwight Eisenhower, remarking on the President’s stance on civil rights during a Summit and calling out people like former Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, who stood in the way of progress.
“My dear Mr. President:
I was sitting in the audience at the Summit Meeting of Negro Leaders yesterday when you said we must have patience. On hearing you say this, I felt like standing up and saying, ‘ Oh no! Not again.’
I respectfully remind you sir, that we have been the most patient of all people. When you said we must have self-respect, I wondered how we could have self-respect and remain patient considering the treatment accorded us through the years.
17 million Negroes cannot do as you suggest and wait for the hearts of men to change. We want to enjoy now the rights that we feel we are entitled to as Americans. This we cannot do unless we pursue aggressively goals which all other Americans achieved over 150 years ago.
As the chief executive of our nation, I respectfully suggest that you unwittingly crush the spirit of freedom in Negroes by constantly urging forbearance and give hope to those pro-segregation leaders like Governor Faubus who would take from us even those freedoms we now enjoy. Your own experience with Governor Faubus is proof enough that forbearance and not eventual integration is the goal the pro-segregation leaders seek.
In my view, an unequivocal statement backed up by action such as you demonstrated you could take last fall in dealing with Governor Faubus if it became necessary, would let it be known that America is determined to provide — in the near future — for Negroes — the freedoms we are entitled to under the constitution.
Jackie Robinson has his own museum, recently opened by his wife and children.
In 2008, on the 61st anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the MLB color barrier, his widow Rachel Robinson announced that the Jackie Robinson Foundation would be opening a museum in his honor. For 14 years, the museum had been underway, experiencing delay after delay, including the most recent global pandemic. This past summer, the Jackie Robinson Museum finally opened and, just one week after her 100th birthday on July 19th, Mrs. Rachel Robinson was right there to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony alongside her 72-year-old daughter Sharon and 70-year-old son David.
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“The opening was kicked off with a gala dinner and preview of the museum, attended by a host of celebrities including former pitcher CC Sabathia, former NL president Len Coleman, former Mets owner Fred Wilpon, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, tennis star Billie Jean King, and director Spike Lee. The museum contains 4,500 artifacts including Robinson’s playing equipment, his 1946 minor league contract for $600 a month, and his 1947 rookie contract for a $5000 salary. There are a total of 40,000 images in the museum and 450 hours of footage as well as an education center planned by Mrs. Rachel Robinson on the second floor.
‘The issues in baseball, the issues that Jackie Robinson challenged in 1947, they’re still with us. The signs of white only have been taken down, but the complexity of equal opportunity still exists… [My dad] was a man who used the word ‘we.’ I think today Jackie Robinson would say I accept this honor, but I accept this honor on behalf of something far beyond my individual self, far beyond my family, far beyond even my race. Jackie Robinson would say don’t think of you standing on my shoulders, I think of myself as standing on the shoulders of my mother, who was a sharecropper in Georgia, my grandmother, who was born a slave,’” David told the crowd of supporters.
Thank you for everything Mr. Jackie Robinson. Because of you, we can!
5 important things you never learned about Jackie Robinson. Photo Courtesy of @JackieRobinsonOfficial/Instagram