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*Jackie Robinson was born on this date in 1919. He was a Black athlete, business executive, and activist.
Born to a family of sharecroppers in Cairo, Georgia, Jack Roosevelt Robinson attended Pasadena Junior College and UCLA. In 1941 Robinson left college to join the United States Army and received an honorable discharge in 1944 with the rank of first lieutenant. The following year, Robinson began his professional baseball career with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues.
That same year, Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. After one season, he was called up to Brooklyn, starting at first base on April 15, 1947. Breaking major league baseball's color barrier was a serious challenge, and Robinson met fierce racial resistance from many players and managers on opposing teams, the Dodgers, and fans. Some rival players threw pitches at his head, spat on him when he slid into a base, and more. With some support from Brooklyn owner Branch Rickey and the encouragement of some teammates, Robinson survived these attacks and helped the Dodgers win the National League pennant.
That season he was named rookie of the year. Robinson's field play included graceful fielding, timely hitting, and aggressive base running. He retired from pro baseball after the 1956 season with a career batting average of.311, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962, the first Black player to receive that honor. After baseball, Robinson became vice president of a restaurant chain in New York City.
He also promoted Black business in Harlem and became a leading advocate for American Civil Rights. Jackie Robinson died in 1972.
The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York