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African-American History
Jackie Robinson in Dodgers uniform, 1954.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Look Magazine Photograph Collection.
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Jackie Robinson

From Jessica McElrath,
Your Guide to African-American History.
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Occupaton: Professional Baseball Player

Dates: January 31, 1919 - October 24, 1972

About Jackie Robinson: Jack (John) Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. In 1920, his family moved to Pasadena, California. After graduating from John Muir Technical High School, Robinson attended Pasadena Community College. He then transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). While at UCLA, Robinson played baseball, football, basketball, and track.

In 1942, Robinson was drafted into the Army. He served in Kansas and Texas. He eventually became a second lieutenant. While serving in Fort Hood, Texas, Robinson refused to obey an order to move to the back of the bus. Because this was a violation of Army regulations, a court martial heard the matter. However, Robinson was acquitted.

When Robinson left the Army in 1944, he wanted to play baseball. At the time, baseball teams were segregated and had been since the early 1900s. Therefore, African American baseball players played in Latin America and in the Negro Leagues. Not unlike other African American players, Robinson also joined the Negro Leagues. He began playing for the Kansas City Monarchs.

However, Robinson's career in the Negro Leagues was short. In 1945, Branch Rickey, the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, requested a meeting with Robinson. Rickey wanted to integrate the major leagues and was looking for a player who could withstand the hostility that would be faced. After determining that Robinson was up to the task, he asked him to first play for the minor league team, the Montreal Royals. On October 23, 1945, it became official when Robinson signed a contract with the team.

After a successful year playing for the Montreal Royals, Robinson was issued a Dodgers' uniform in April 1947. As expected, his entrance into the major leagues was not without controversy. Some fans were hostile, while others were enthusiastic. Regardless of the reaction, Robinson excelled on the team. For the first few years, Robinson did not respond to the insults. But in 1949, he began speaking out against racism. He attacked the jim crow laws in the South and promoted the desegregation of southern hotels and ballparks.

In 1947, The Sporting News, which had initially been opposed to the integration of the major leagues, awarded him its first Rookie of the Year Award. In 1949, he was also awarded the National League Most Valuable Player. In 1956, Robinson retired. From 1957 to 1964, he worked as vice president of personnel at Chock Full O' Nuts. Robinson was also active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1956. He died in Stamford, Connecticut on October 24, 1972.

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