For Black History Month, A More Perfect Blog will feature profiles of influential and heroic African-American leaders from our curriculum, Being An American: Exploring the Ideals That Unite Us. Use the profiles to start a class discussion on what makes a hero and how each of the people we describe is heroic.
Jackie Robinson was born in Georgia in 1919. Abandoned by his father and raised with his four siblings by their mother, Robinson’s early life experiences were of segregation: in restaurants, movie theaters, and at school. His mother taught him self-respect, courage, and perseverance. His athletic talents blossomed in high school. He excelled at many sports. As a player in the Negro American League, Robinson’s batting average approached .400.
Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, ending 80 years of segregation in professional baseball. Robinson knew it would be a tough road. Some players threatened to strike. When he was at bat, fast balls would narrowly miss his head. The crowd taunted him with racial epithets. His family received hate mail. But Robinson did not back down. And as time went on, his fellow ball players could not deny his talents and contributions to the game. Robinson became an advocate for Civil Rights.
Robinson was a trailblazer in American sports. In 1997, on the anniversary of his first game, Major League baseball retired Jackie Robinson’s number – 42 – as a testament to his courage and perseverance.