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Jackie Robinson

November 17, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Jackie Robinson was an African-American professional baseball player who broke Major Leagues Baseball’s infamous “color barrier” when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Until that time, professional ballplayers of color suited up for teams only in the Negro Leagues. Today, April 15th is observed as Jackie Robinson Day throughout MLB franchises, with players wearing the former Dodgers’ jersey number 42. Robinson’s dazzling athletic prowess and grace under pressure effectively led to the integration of the Major Leagues, and his 10-year career with the Dodgers — and his outspoken activism in his later years — helped set the stage for the burgeoning civil rights movement.

When Was Jackie Robinson Born?

Jackie Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia, to a family of sharecroppers. He was the youngest of five children.

After his father abandoned the family in 1920, they moved to Pasadena, California, where his mother, Mallie, worked a series of odd jobs to support herself and her children. Though Pasadena was a fairly affluent suburb of Los Angeles at the time, the Robinsons were poor, and Jackie and his friends in the city’s small black community were often excluded from recreational activities.

That began to change when Jackie enrolled at John Muir High School in 1935. His older brother Mack, a silver medalist in track and field at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, inspired him to pursue his interest in athletics, and the younger Robinson ultimately earned varsity letters in baseball, basketball, football and track while at Muir.

After graduating high school, Jackie attended Pasadena Junior College for two years, where he continued to have success in all four sports. Following the death of another older brother, Frank, in a motorcycle accident, Jackie decided to honor his memory by enrolling at UCLA in 1939.

There, he became the first Bruin to earn varsity letters in four sports — the same four in which he starred in high school — and he won the NCAA long jump championship in 1940. Jackie also met his future wife, Rachel, while at UCLA.

Robinson in the U.S. Army

Jackie ultimately left college in the spring of his senior year, just a few credits short of his …read more


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