In 1947 Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and was the first black to do so. Before that there were separate leagues. Segregation was a big issue and Jackie made it even bigger by calling for it to stop and letting every one have a chance to show their talent. He led the path for a less difficult life for blacks, but that path had hate, misery, and pain as obstacles and only a special person like Robinson could overcome those obstacles.
Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in a small farmhouse near Cairo, Georgia. He had a tough up bringing and did not have good housing. “Jackie and his family lived on a white owned farm and his father worked on the farm”(Falkner 22). Jackie did not have a clear path to the right future. “The overriding reality of Robinson’s early years was that, for black youth, the future was closed. Simple as that. It didn’t take sociologist or a Jim Crow sign to tell him that schools, jobs, opportunities, careers were severely limited”(Falkner 28). Jackie had his eyes opened to prejudice at a very young age. “Everyday prejudice was Robinson’s silent companion wherever he went, to and from school, to the neighborhood parks, to the segregated movie theaters, to the curbside markets where the Bond- Bread truck, the vegetable truck, the milk truck, sold their wares because most local food merchants refused to welcome nonwhites in their stores” (Falkner 30). Jackie grew up in the era of segregation. “During the period of segregation in the United States racial controversies were, of course, serious issues that often held deadly consequences. Lynchings were common. And each time blacks attempted to expand their limited citizenship, the response was usually accompanied with violence”(Dorinson 159). For Jackie to take all the horrible injustices that he saw an had done to him is an extraordinary sign of what kind of man Jackie was.
When Jackie was young he and his friends used to sneak into the local reservoir to escape the unbearable heat. “In one incident a sheriff’s deputy taunted them, “Look there, niggers swimming in my drinking water.” And then, when the youths were arrested and taken to jail, one of the sixteen, crowded into a small cell, pleaded that he was hot and thirsty. The sheriff said, “The coon’s hungry. Go buy a watermelon.” According to the story, watermelon was actually purchase and sliced and handed to Robinson and his friends, who were mockingly photographed by the police as they ate the fruit”(Falkner 33). This was a very painful experience for Jackie he never wanted anyone else to feel that way maybe that is why he never gave up his dream to break the color barriers of major league baseball.
Jackie had a tough time getting his chance to play in the majors. “The owners besides sharing in the general prejudice, were afraid that integration would cost them business by driving away the white fans without bringing in enough black fans to make up the difference”(Weidhorn 34). A lot lot of black athletes had trouble make it to the big leagues. “Though black talent was obviously out there, not many owners- or players, fans, or reporters- were eager to change things”(Weidhorn 34). When Jackie was playing for a minor league team he had many encounters with racism. When Robinson’s team was playing the Orioles in an exhibition game they beat them 4-2 and the white fans of the Orioles were not happy. Jackie and two other black teammates stayed in the locker room all night due to lurking lynch mobs waiting outside the ballpark. Vigilantes were screaming, “Come out of there Robinson, you nigger son of a bitch, we’ll getcha! We’ll getcha”(Falkner 139). When Jackie was playing in Georgia the KKK had said they were going to kill him if he showed his face after the game or even before (Weidhorn 118). Robinson kept going to make is dream of playing pro ball happen. Jackie was getting closer to breaking the race barrier in baseball, He went to try out in Boston and during the whole try out there screams from the fans saying “Get those niggers off the field”(Weidhorn35). This inncedent still did not set him back and he kept working and fighting to be were he belonged.
Finally at age 28 Robinson made history by being the first black player to be signed by a major league baseball team. The Brooklyn Dodgers signed him and a man named Branch Rickey made it happen. He told Robinson that now matter how bad it got and how many people messed with him the only way he could get back at them was hitting homers (Shapiro 127). As soon as Jackie was brought up to the majors the abuse began, with hate mail and threats,”Get out of the game or be killed”. “Get out or your wife is dead”(Dorinson 18). In one of Jackie’s first games they were playing the Phillies. One of the players on the Phills yelled “Hey nigger, why don’t you go back to the cotton fields were you belong, Jackie responded by going 4 for 6 that day with two homerun and 5 RBI’s”(Rowan 182). While the Dodgers were in Chicago playing the Cubs Jackie could not stay at the same hotel as his teammates because of his color (Shapiro112). Even though Jackie could play ball he was still limited to what he could do. “After 1949, a black person could be accepted on the ball field, but the country would still witness bloodshed over the issue of integrated bathrooms, restaurants, or schools”(Dorinson 8). Jackie ignored it all, everything from racial slurs to not being able to stay or eat somewhere because of his color, and he became the first black man to play in the major’s.
Jackie Robinson is a great American hero. Robinson opened doors for many black athletes. Jackie showed blacks that they could succeed in life during that time and he made it less difficult for other black athletes to succeed. He also showed people that every slander and ethnic slur anybody ever said or wrote about him was wasted effort because he was too strong and to brave to give up his dream to be a pro baseball player.
Rowan, Charles. Wait till Next Year. New York: Random House, 1960.
Dorinson, Joseph. Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports, and the American Dream. New York:
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Falkner, David. Great Time Coming. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
Weidhorn, Manfred. Jackie Robinson. New York: Macmillan, 1993.
Shapiro, Milton J. Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers. New York: Simon and