Jackie Robinson as a Civil Rights Activist

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Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31st 1919. In 1947, at the age of 28, Jackie became the first African American to break the “color line” of Major League Baseball when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers. During his tenure with the Dodgers, Jackie was not simply an average player. Among various other accolades, Mr. Robinson was a starter on six World Series teams as well as being named the National League Rookie of The Year in 1947. His advantageous career was then capped in 1962 when he was inducted in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.1 Contrary to popular belief, Jackie's perseverance in implementing racial integration extended beyond his career in Major League Baseball. During the Sixties Jackie Robinson was a key contributor in the civil rights movement and the struggle to gain equality for African Americans. He was an active member of the NAACP, an outspoken supporter of Martin Luther King, and an ardent writer to United States' Presidents. In his Presidential letters, Jackie's voice was most loudly heard and successfully interpreted through his varying writing tones and persuasive techniques.

Jackie Robinson's first letter was sent on May 13th 1958 to our thirty-fourth President, Dwight Eisenhower. The purpose of this letter stemmed from an incident which occurred in Little Rock, Arkansas. A year prior, Governor Orval Faubus, in an attempt to gain popularity amongst white voters, ordered national guardsmen to Little Rock Central High School to restrict all African American students from entering. Segregation in Arkansas public high schools was outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1954 thus making the Governor's action illegal. President Eisenhower responded to the situation by sending Federal Troops to the location to protect the black students as they attended their classes.2 Jackie Robinson was very pleased with President Eisenhower's decision, but became increasingly frustrated as the President remained stagnant in using his power to ensure African American freedoms. This is a time in Jackie's life in which he is relatively young and fresh into his time in political activism. Consequentially, he writes with an outspoken voice that demands to be released from suppression. This voice is present in the opening paragraph of the letter where Jackie writes, “I was sitting in the audience in the Summit Meeting of Negro Leaders yesterday when you said we must have patients. On hearing you say this, I felt like standing up and saying, 'Oh no! Not again.'”3 The fact that he is attending important meetings illustrates his passion for racial equality. He is taking time out of his life to initiate change and convince leaders that they must make it a priority to act against segregation. By attending this meeting, Jackie is able to directly hear the President's reasons for delayed decision making and continue to push for positive change. It also gives him credibility in the eyes of the President. The President will listen to Jackie more thoroughly knowing of his activism.

Jackie's strong emotions towards segregation are presented in the exclamation that he incorporates at the end of the quotation. Jackie shows an endless amount of courage when using this form of speech. Dwight Eisenhower was known as a stern military President and using such informal language in a supposedly formal letter could have easily caused Eisenhower to disregard the letter and not listen to the message that Jackie was attempting to convey. Instead, because the exclamation was well incorporated and surrounded by affluent language, it was effective an effective form of persuasion.

Further down in the letter, Mr. Robinson continues his outspoken behavior by stating, “17 million Negroes cannot do what you suggested 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. That we cannot do unless we pursue aggressively goals which all...
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