Baseball player And
Civil Rights Activist?
By: Moni Swed
Jackie Robinson, an icon, a civil rights activist, a political leader, a man who helped change American society. Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia on January 31st, 1919 and died October 24, 1972. Even though his life was cut short to 53 years, Robinson accomplished goals that very few people would be able to accomplish; he was the first black man to play the game of baseball in the major league. This had a tremendous impact on American society. Throughout his lifetime, Jackie faced many adversities, as did everybody who had black skin. During the 1900s, African Americans faced discrimination and segregation. Whites and blacks would attend different schools, drink from different water fountains, eat in different restaurants, stay in different hotels, sit in different parts of the bus etc. This is the world Jackie grew up in. As world war two came to an end in 1945, African Americans were no longer content with being second class citizens as many of them have put their lives on the line fighting for this country. Jackie Robinson was among those who fought in Vietnam and spent his time playing for the Negro baseball leagues while he was not sacrificing his life for our country. Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time is the one who founded the Negro leagues in 1945. Although it was never thought of as a serious league and does not have any records of games played, Branch used the league in order to quietly scout black talent in order to challenge segregation in the major leagues. This is how he found Jackie Robinson, one of the best players in the Negro league. Branch offered Jackie a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for the Dodgers. However, he made it clear to Jackie that he was going to hear a lot of very racist remarks by not only the fans, but opposing players as well. Both Branch and Jackie understood that this was a very delicate situation, not only was Jackie going to have to maintain his composure when it would come to racist remarks, death threats and balls thrown at his head by opposing pitchers, but the whole African American society was depending on him to be able to compete against whites because this would set the table for other black people trying to play baseball on the professional level. It would prove to white people that black people can compete with white people not only in baseball, but in every other aspect as well. Jackie did more than just compete, he became one of the best in the business, in his first season as a Brooklyn Dodger, he won rookie of the year and in 1949, he won the batting title leading the league with a .342 batting average. He was selected to six consecutive all star games and won the NL MVP in 1949, the same year he won the batting title. This eventually proved everybody who thought black people could not compete with white people in anything wrong. Branch Rickey signing Jackie Robinson, also influenced other team owners to sign black players; Larry Doby was the next African American baseball player to be signed by the Cleveland Indians just a couple months later in July of 1947, then came Hank Thompson for the St. Louis Browns less than 2 weeks later, then Monte Irvin for the New York Giants two years later, and so on. Blacks did not only gain opportunity of baseball, but Jackie made it that black people would be looked at as people that can live up to the same potential that everybody else can in many other aspects. Jackie Robinson’s prominence as a black athlete increased his credibility as a political activist, which made it easier for him to be a part of the civil rights movement. Jackie Robinson provided black people with more opportunities by breaking the color barrier and performing the way he did. “Naturally, the good things of the game seem especially...
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