Jackie Robinson Essay
Jackie Robinson did much for baseball, black American history and American culture. Events in his life, and battles he fought, broke down barriers and stereotypes for athletes and black Americans, transforming American culture. Some of Jackie’s battles included racism in the military and at home and segregated sports.
Jackie was born on January 31, 1919, to Jerry and Mallie Robinson. He was the youngest of five children, his siblings were Edgar, Frank, Mathew and Willa. After graduating from PJC in spring 1939, Jackie transferred to UCLA, where he became the school’s first athlete to receive letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. He was one of four black players on the 1939 Bruins team. At a time when very few black players existed in mainstream college football, this made UCLA college football’s most integrated team. In track and field Jackie won the 1940 NCAA men’s track and field championship in the long jump. His distance was 24 ft. 10 1?4 in.
Robinson met his wife Rachel at UCLA. She was a freshman while he was a senior. Robinson left college his senior year and took a job as an assistant athletic director in California. After the government ceased funding for the program he was working for the…?
Robinson traveled to Hawaii in fall 1941 to play football for the semi-professional, racially integrated Honolulu Bears. After a short season, Robinson returned to California in December 1941 to pursue a career as running back for the Los Angeles Bull Dogs. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ended Robinson’s football career. In 1942, Robinson was drafted and assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit in Fort Riley Kansas. Having the requisite qualifications, Robinson and several other black soldiers applied for admission to an Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Riley. Few black applicants were admitted into OCS until after subsequent directives by army leadership. As a result, the applications of Robinson and his colleagues were delayed for several months.
After protests, by heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, and the help of Truman Gibson, the men were accepted into OCS. After being drafted into the army Jackie Robinson knew his career in football at UCLA was finished. Realizing what was going on in the world helped Jackie commit himself to the training and in 1943 he was ranked as a second lieutenant. Robinson was relived to leave the Army life. Returning home to Pasadena, he was battered but not broken. He felt that he was involved in two wars: One against the foreign enemy, and the other against racism at home. Jackie once said “The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time.”
With what was just said, where can I begin? Lets start at the top with the foreign enemy. Germany and Japan joined together as a massive force while America allied with Russia. Hitler was very prejudice to the Jews, killing of millions innocent people. Though it was not the level of prejudice displayed at home in America, it was enough to set a fire under Robinson even after he retuned home. World War II started in 1939 and ended in September 1945 claiming over 60 million people’s lives, which was over 2.5% of the world population at the time. I think that World War II had changed the way many Americans thought about race. Black and white workers had worked side by side in shipyards and factories on the home front, black soldiers had performed heroically in combat. Even though it had changed the mind of a few, it did not come close to changing the majority of how Americans felt about African Americans back at home.
After the war, prejudice did not recede at home but only grew stronger with Civil right acts making public noise, often ending in jail-time or assassinations to the African American community. A few names rose to power among the civil rights movement. Speeches, dedication and the movement of thousands helped make this possible. Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King helped pave the road for awareness with solutions and peaceful acts of leadership. The forth push of equality among all Americans did not come from a famous speech, or even from the action on a bus in Alabama. This empowering movement was about to occur in the world of white professional baseball.
Jackie had no job when his old mentor, Rev. Karl Downs, offered Robinson a job as the college’s athletic director. (What college’s?) Jackie Robinson was also sending letters to the Monarchs pitcher, Ted Alexander. He was a part of the Negro’s baseball leagues. Ted told Jackie that the owner of the team is now hiring. Jackie was very interested and took the $100 a week to play for him once it was offered.
Robinson moved to Houston and joined the team at second base. His skills soon got him noticed among the team. Ted then realized that Robinson was there best player. The exclusion of black athletes from baseball came increasingly into question. Sports columnist for major daily newspapers, including Jimmy Cannon in the New York Post, were debating fair employment laws that could outlaw racial bias in hiring. This would extend to all teams based in that town. That summer, three different Dodgers scouts went out to watch Robinson and several other negro leaguers play. As a cover story, Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers, announced that he planed to form a new Negro ball club, the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers, as a part of the third Negro League. After seeing the scouting reports Rickey was so impressed with Robinson that he canceled his plans for a third negro team all together and added him to the lineup of the previously segregated Brooklyn Dodgers. This major league team was the first of its kind, breaking barriers and stereotypes of black athletes. This decision changed the game and the culture of America forever.
As the first black man on the Brooklyn Dodger’s, Jackie did not only turn heads when he played, but encouraged many African Americans to also chase their dreams as an athlete. As the first African American player, Robinson contained a batting average of a whopping .311. Out of the 1,500 professional pitches thrown at him he made contact with 137 hits for home runs. He made contact with the ball over 1,600 times in his career as a Dodger and stole over 200 bases. Many awards were presented to Jackie over the years but no award could compare to the life-achieving goal of entering the hall of fame. Jackie Robinson became a member in the hall of fame in 1962. Jackie Robinson served his country in so many ways. Now the question is “What was his biggest contribution to African American history”? His contribution was not fully represented on the battlefield or the baseball diamond. But his largest contribution to American history happened after his
death. 3 months after passing away the Robinson family placed his money to start the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Described in The New York Times as what “might be the best educational effort in the country,” the Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) is a national, non-profit, organization founded in 1973 as a vehicle to perpetuate the memory of Jackie Robinson through the advancement of higher education among underserved populations. JRF’s strategic combination of financial assistance and support services results in a nearly 100% college graduation rate. Over 1,400 students have graduated and have Jackie to thank for their chance at a better life. His legacy not only defined the way we look at other humans, but it encouraged the knowledge and effort to spread no matter what you put your mind to. No matter who is in your way or the color of your skin; nothing can hold you back from success but yourself. Jackie did not only break the color barrier in sports and war, but the way underprivileged people can overcome diversity.