African Americans in 20th Century Sports

Topics: Jackie Robinson, 1936 Summer Olympics, Major League Baseball Pages: 5 (1371 words) Published: June 5, 2014
African American Athletes in the 20th Century
The world of sports wasn’t always the fun and games that we see today. In the 21st century the world of sports is decorated with many talented African American athletes from soccer, to hockey, to basketball, to baseball. African American athletes in the 20th century had to fight through the race barrier and face up against unbeatable odds to be able to do what they love. Jackie Robinson, Jack Johnson, and Jesse Owens are all African American athletes who went through the segregation of pro sports to help pave the way for future pro athletes such as Usain Bolt, Michael Jordan, and many more famous African American Athletes in today’s world. Jackie Robinson was the first African American baseball player, Jack Johnson a heavyweight boxing champion of the world, and Jesse Owen’s a four time gold medalist at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. These three men fought through the race barrier to not only helped African American’s become more easily accepted into the world of professional sports but also in the real world.

First of all, although Jackie Robinson was not the best African American baseball player of his time, his attitude and ability to handle racist harassment led the way for the rest of his race to play Major League Baseball, amongst other sports. He opened the door for his entire race to play professional sports and gain acceptance as more desegregation took place. After fighting in World War II from 1941 until 1944, Jackie played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues from 1944 until 1946. In 1946, he was selected as the best person to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball. In 1943, Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time, had an idea though to be outrageous by many during that period. He considered signing some black players to make up for the wartime shortage of talent. He narrowed down the list of prospects, searching for the best player to integrate baseball. The likely choices for talent would have been Satchel Paige or Josh Gibson. Rickey, however, wanted not only a star but a person who could deal with the harassment from the public, some teammates, and the overall opposition. Knowing of Jackie's talent and his hate for segregation, Rickey set up an interview hoping he could convince Robinson to sign a contract. When Rickey told Robinson why he had been brought to see him, Jackie's reaction was a combination of several emotions. When he did find the ability to speak, his answer was "Yes." Robinson was ready to accept the challenge. When Jackie first came to the Dodgers, he was without a locker, and was told that he had to spend nights at separate hotel rooms from his teammates. On the team bus, Jackie had to sit in the back. Some teammates actually threatened not to sign contracts if they had to play on the same team as Robinson. Jackie Robinson was the only African American baseball player in the league at the time so he was the prime target for death threats and criticism even though he was one of the better players of the team. Jackie though multiple times of calling it quits but he knew that if he did he would have failed to have broken the color barrier. He knew he had to make a sacrifice for future generations of African American. Jackie Robinson gave courage to African Americans not only in baseball, but in life. Secondly, Jack Johnson was one of the first ever African American athletes to break the color barrier coming forty years earlier than Jackie Robinson. Johnson could have arguably been the best heavyweight boxer of his time, posting 79 wins and only 8 losses on route to becoming the Heavyweight champion of the World. Both of Johnson’s parents were former slaves who worked jobs that barely made ends meet to support their six children. At first African American boxers were allowed to box, but they were not allowed to fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World, for they were deemed unworthy....
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