February 17, 2023
Jackie Robinson, the first Black baseball player to play in the American major leagues during the 20th century. On April 15, 1947, Robinson broke the decades-old “color line” of Major League Baseball when he appeared on the field for the National League Brooklyn Dodgers. He played as an infielder and outfielder for the Dodgers from 1947 through 1956.
Mr. Robinson, was raised in Pasadena, California, Robinson became an outstanding all-around athlete at Pasadena Junior College and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He excelled in football, basketball, and track as well as baseball. Robinson withdrew from UCLA in his third year to help his mother care for the family. In 1942 he entered the U.S. Army and attended officer candidate school; he was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1943. Robinson faced court-martial in 1944 for refusing to follow an order that he sit at the back of a military bus. The charges against Robinson were dismissed, and he received an honorable discharge from the military. The incident, however, presaged Robinson’s future activism and commitment to civil rights.
After retiring from baseball early in 1957, Robinson engaged in business and in civil rights activism. He was a spokesperson for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and made appearances with Martin Luther King, Jr. With his induction in 1962, Robinson became the first Black person in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York. His autobiography, I Never Had It Made, was published in 1972. In 1984 Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor for an American civilian.