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Feb 29: Black History Maker, Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson was a baseball legend who broke racial barriers and earned a place in the Hall of Fame.
Jackie Robinson, BK Reader

Longtime Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia, in 1919 to a family of sharecroppers. Robinson excelled early in all sports.

Jackie Robinson attended UCLA where he became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. In 1941, he was named to the All-American football team. However, due to financial difficulties, he was forced to leave college and eventually decided to enlist in the U.S. Army.

After two years in the Army, he had progressed to second lieutenant. But Robinson's military career was cut short when he was court-martialed in relation to his objections with incidents of racial discrimination. In the end, Robinson left the Army with an honorable discharge.

In 1945, Robinson played one season in the Negro Baseball League, traveling with the Kansas City Monarchs. In 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey approached Robinson about joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant to join the Major Leagues. When Robinson first donned a Brooklyn Dodger uniform, he pioneered the integration of professional athletics in America.

By breaking the color barrier in baseball, the nation's preeminent sport, he courageously challenged the deeply rooted custom of racial segregation in both the North and the South.

At the end of Robinson's rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he had become National League Rookie of the Year with 12 homers, a league-leading 29 steals, with a .297 average.

In 1949, he was selected as the NL's Most Valuable Player of the Year and also won the batting title with a .342 average that same year. As a result of his great success, Robinson was eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

He was active in the civil rights movement, where he used his star power to attend many rallies, fund raising events and demonstrations after his retirement from baseball in 1957. 

Robinson also was the first black television analyst for MLB and the first black vice president of a major American corporation, Chock full o'Nuts. He also helped establish the Freedom National Bank, an African-American-owned financial institution based in Harlem.

Robinson's life and legacy will be remembered as one of the most important of any athlete in American history.

Jackie Robinson, we honor your memory and salute your contributions.

*Source,,, Stanford University.

February is Black History Month! Every day this month, BK Reader will profile one Black History Maker born or raised in Brooklyn. There are countless Brooklynites— past and present— who have contributed to America's fabric as pioneers or leaders in art, entertainment, sports, science and government. This month, we present to you 28! Click here to see all of the profiles.