Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife, Coretta Scott King, once writ that “We still are struggling with racism and prejudice. But… some great men have decided to use their lives to serve humanity. They found… something that showed them a way to serve others… and that makes their stories special, and worth knowing” (Scott, 8). One man, Jackie Robinson, exemplifies King’s quote about great individuals whose actions transcended history, and made positive change in the world.
Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson was the first African-American Major League Baseball player of the modern era. Robinson broke this racial barrier when debuting for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
His crossing of the color line opened the door not only for other previously omitted players based on their skin colors across the world of sports, it also contributed significantly to the Civil Rights Movement. Outstanding athletic ability and courage were just two components of this man who has forever left an unparalleled mark on American society.
Jackie was born into a family of sharecroppers on January 31, 1919, and was the youngest of five children in Cairo, Georgia. The Robinson family relocated to Pasadena, California, just a year following his birth after Jackie’s father walked out on the family. In Pasadena, Robinson was excluded from many recreational opportunities as a boy as he grew up in poverty in an otherwise affluent community. Jackie’s mother juggled several odd jobs to help support the family.
In 1935, Jackie enrolled at John Muir High School following his attendance at Washington Junior High School. Two of Jackie’s elder brothers, Mack and Frank, recognized Jackie’s athletic abilities and pushed Jackie to pursue his interest in sports. Mack went on to earn a silver medal at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, the same Olympics that African-American track star Jesse Owens outsprinted several top Germans to win gold and discredited the German Fascist dictator Adolf Hitler’s idea of white.