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Born in Cairo, Georgia on January 31, 1919 to a family of sharecroppers, Jackie Robinson was raised by his mother Mallie Robinson along with his four siblings. The Robinsons endured racial discrimination as the only Black family on their block. In the words of Dr. Charles Drew, “Excellence of performance will transcend artificial barriers created by man.” And that’s exactly what Robinson did.
He went on to become UCLA’s first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports (baseball, basketball, football and track). After playing one season in the Negro League, Robinson became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in 1947 when he played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Robinson overcame racial adversity from teammates, team owners, and fans to become a baseball hero and a national symbol of hope. He used his platform to write a letter to every President who held office between 1956 and 1972 about African American civil rights, often calling out the sitting commander in chief’s lack of commitment to advance the rights of Black people. Here’s the letter he wrote to President Dwight Eisenhower on May 13, 1958.
As you can see, Jackie Robinson was an advocate for African American civil rights on and off the field.