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Jackie (John Roosevelt) Robinson

With skill and courage, Jackie Robinson broke down the walls of segregation that locked black Americans out of professional sports.

Born in Cairo, Georgia, in 1919, John Roosevelt Robinson was the youngest of five children. His father, a sharecropper, abandoned the family six months after Jackie's birth. Mallie Roosevelt, his mother, moved the family to California.

After Jackie joined a neighborhood gang, an older friend "told me that it didn't take guts to follow the crowd, that courage and intelligence lay in being willing to be different."

At UCLA Robinson was the first person to letter in baseball, football, basketball, and track in the school's history. In 1941 he was signed to play football with the Los Angeles Bulldogs.

Jackie Robinson's courage in standing for civil rights showed itself during his stint in the army. After being drafted in 1942, Robinson and boxer Joe Louis succeeded in opening an officer candidate school to black soldiers. Robinson served and left the military as second lieutenant. During his service, he was threatened with court-martial for refusing to move to the back of a bus, but he won the court case due to the order's illegality.

Branch Rickey, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, determined to bring black players into the major leagues. After his scouts saw Robinson playing baseball for the Monarchs of the Negro American Baseball League, Rickey recruited him to the Dodgers' minor league team, the Montreal Royals, with plans to bring him into the Dodgers' lineup.

In 1947 his first year with the Dodgers, Robinson earned recognition as rookie of the year. Though some people cheered Robinson for his abilities and courage, others issued death threats against him.

During Robinson's ten years with the Dodgers , the team won the National League title six times. He maintained a .311 batting average and stole home nineteen times. He played in the World Series six times. He won the title of most valuable player in 1949, and in 1955 he helped the team win the World Series. He retired from baseball in 1956.

During his years on the team and afterward, Robinson used his position to benefit all people by calling for an end to racial injustice. He worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and with the Southern Christian Leadership Council to open doors of opportunity for other black people. Using his prominent position as an athlete, he spoke and wrote about the injustices of racial segregation and the lack of civil rights.

In 1962, his first year of eligibility, Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 1963, he and his wife Rachel, started an annual jazz concert to raise money to fight racial injustice.

In 1964 he and others opened a minority-owned bank in Harlem, Freedom National Bank.

He participated in Nelson Rockefeller's bid for the presidency in 1964 which earned him contempt from some in the NAACP.

In 1970 he opened a construction firm to provide low and moderately priced homes.

Jackie Robinson died of a heart attack on October 24,1972, after a lifetime of using his skills to open doors for others.

For kids:

The Value of Courage: The Story of Jackie Robinson

I Never had it Made: An Autobiography

Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait

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