The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
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Jackie Robinson Integrates Major League Baseball (1947)
Jackie Robinson

In 1947, a major breakthrough of the color line in sports occurred when Jackie Robinson, a 28-year-old African-American ballplayer and war veteran, was brought up from the minor leagues to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The nation was divided at first. Many whites and nearly all blacks applauded the move and said it was long overdue. But a large number of whites, including many major league baseball players, objected to his presence. Although most of the press supported Robinson, some newspapers were opposed.

Robinson knew that his presence on the playing field would cause resentment. He anticipated that some pitchers would aim pitches at his head and that other players would try to injure him on the basepaths.

Many opposing players deliberately went out of their way to spike Robinson; one caused a seven inch gash. Jackie Robinson
(One Southern player, Enos "Country" Slaughter of the St. Louis Cardinals, spiked Robinson particularly brutally, causing a seven-inch gash.) Ballplayers and fans would shout epithets of "nigger" at him when he came to bat. He also was aware that a few rabid racists might try to kill
him -- or at least scare him with death threats. But despite all of these pressures, Robinson played extremely well. He was a solid hitter, an outstanding base stealer, and he excelled defensively. He handled the pressure well even though at times he felt like exploding. The SPORTING NEWS, a newspaper that had opposed blacks in the major leagues, gave Robinson its first Rookie of the Year Award in 1947; the award was renamed in Robinson's honor in 1987.

Robinson's action had repercussions far beyond the sports world. Robinson's integration of baseball was a major blow to segregation everywhere, causing other racial barriers to fall. Robinson himself spoke out against Jim Crow. He criticized hotels that refused to let him stay with his teammates and teams that refused to hire black players. A number of hotels and restaurants where the Dodgers stayed integrated as a result. Robinson's outstanding 10-year career included a .311 Teammates congratulating one anotherlifetime batting average, playing in six World Series, and stealing home 19 times. He also won the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1949, when he led the league with a .342 batting average and 37 stolen bases. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. After his retirement Robinson worked for the NAACP and Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York.

-- Richard Wormser

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Did you Know ...

A handful of blacks were able to play Major League baseball in the 19th century.
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World War II

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