Imagine being resented and demeaned your whole life, to the extent you couldn’t be recognized for your personality, talents, or humanity. It hurts enough to be alienated and separated from the general population, but alongside fearing violence and prejudice is intolerable. Imagine living your whole life seemingly worthless, then suddenly being one of the largest turning points in American history. We still live in a separated world, where things are never totally equal. Segregation back then parallels to racism that still exists now, almost sixty years after the civil rights movement. It is important to see what changes can be made to spread love and equality in a community. Jackie Robinson’s story serves an important lesson of standing up against the odds and can impact kids worldwide to voice their rights and make a difference, maybe changing history.
The 1940’s were largely defined by the harsh segregation and Jim Crow Laws that existed then. Whether forced by law or just abided by long-living social norms, African Americans were heavily regarded as inferior. Societal separations, from neighborhoods down to water fountains, were the largest commonality in the Jim Crow Laws. Laws against “colored peoples” were passed to separate whites and colored people in restaurants, public transportation, and schools (Urofsky). Lynchings were also prevalent. Racial prejudice and violence was inevitable back in the 40’s.
Jack Roosevelt Robinson was the youngest of five children, born in Georgia in 1919. He grew up fatherless, as his father left the family when Robinson was only one. Robinson was raised in Pasadena, California, and later attended UCLA. Growing up without a father figure and facing constant discrimination, you would think he would feel powerless and unlucky, but it only fueled him. He served in World War II, was later arrested for refusing to submit to segregation, and finally signed to play professional baseball when it was all said and done. However, because of segregation, blacks could not play in the major leagues, so he started off in the Negro Leagues. Upon seeing Robinsons amazing performance, Brooklyn Dodgers scout Branch Rickey took a serious liking to him. He realised that tons of talent was being wasted by segregation, and decided to invoke change. But Robinson had yet to face his hardest challenge. The Dodgers decided to take the risk and recruit Robinson, and an immense pressure was put over his head. He knew that if he failed, segregation might never change, but if he succeeded he could be a hero. The Dodgers believed he was the right candidate, strong enough to withstand the discrimination and hardship. He faced physical harassment by opposing players, being kicked as he slid into bases, refused by hotels and restaurants while touring, and received threats for his life (Costly). He was resilient however, for the greater cause. He knew he could change the world, and wouldn’t let the hate stop him or his passion. He also never verbally challenged any of the hate. He kept quiet and to himself, regardless of the countless atrocities done upon him, and spoke through his sport. He proclaimed peace, and his amazing playing portrayed a lesson to the world: all people are equal, can have equal talents, and should be presented with equal opportunity.
In our separated world, we could all learn from Jackie Robinson’s courage and resilience. He is a hero to African Americans all over, as he aided in the spark of the civil rights movement, as well as a hero all sports teams and American history. He suffered and withstood tons of harassment, and his courage sparked the civil rights movement. His role in civil disobedience, standing up without violence, was way ahead of his time. Some could say we would be nowhere close to where we are today without Jackie Robinson’s selfless efforts. He was the first and foremost civil rights leaders. He was the one to go against the grain. He lived in a time before anyone had even heard of Martin Luther King Jr., and ideas of integration seemed unreal and comical. As baseball was the most popular national pastime after the war, Robinson was in the spotlight. He gave speeches, participated in protests, and spoke for the black community as a whole (Cramer). He was despised and he was admired, but regardless, his mind was on the wellbeing of his people. His selfless efforts have made a huge difference today, starting by prefacing the people for a civil rights movement set incomplete motion by figures like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
There is much to learn from Jackie Robinson, in his peaceful protests and selfless actions; he has done tons to make change in our world. Jackie Robinson can be seen as a role model, and instills hope in many of us today. We can learn to use our power to make change in the world, or even our communities. Challenge yourself to make a difference, for the better. Learn from Robinson, and stand up for what you believe in. Enact your first amendment right, and speak up against oppression or corruption. Learn resilience and practice civil disobedience; fighting for a cause without violence can make the largest difference of all.
Article by Kelly Owens & Video by Taylor Pollard
Costly, Andrew. “Jackie Robinson: Desegregation Begins with a Baseball.” Jackie Robinson – Constitutional Rights Foundation, www.crf-usa.org/black-history-month/jackie-robinson.
Cramer, Michael. “The Continuing Importance of Jackie Robinson in Today’s World.” UT News | The University of Texas at Austin, 18 Apr. 2017, news.utexas.edu/2017/04/14/the-continuing-importance-of-jackie-robinson-today.
Urofsky, Melvin I. “Jim Crow Law.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 19 July 2017, www.britannica.com/event/Jim-Crow-law.