1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF
Jackie Roosevelt Robinson (Cairo, Georgia, January 31, 1919 - Stanford, Connecticut, October 24, 1972) was a US Army officer and the first black Major League Baseball player. Robinson played second base for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 until his retirement in 1956. Prior to joining the Dodgers he played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the old Negro League in 1945, and the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate Montréal Royals, where he became the first black baseball player to play on an integrated team, in 1946. He was also was a four sport star (baseball, football, basketball and track) at UCLA.
Robinson was voted baseball's Rookie of the Year in 1947, and the National League Most Valuable Player in 1949. He was selected for the National League All-Star team six consecutive seasons (1949–54 ) and playedin the World Series in 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1956. Robinson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, receiving 124 of a possible 160 votes.
Robinson was a registered Independent, but he described himself as a "Rockefeller Republican." He held conservative opinions on several issues, including the Vietnam War, once writing to Martin Luther King, Jr. to defend how Lyndon B. Johnson was handling the war. Though he supported Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential race against John F. Kennedy, he supported Hubert Humphrey against Nixon in 1968. In 1964, Robinson became one of six national directors for Nelson Rockefeller's Republican presidential campaign. Robinson served as special assistant for community affairs when Rockefeller's 1966 re-election as governor of New York.
Congressional testimony against Paul Robeson
At an international Soviet sponsored student peace conference held in Paris on April 20, 1949, Paul Robeson made widely referenced and controversial comments to the effect that American blacks would not support the United States in a post-World War II Cold War with the Soviet Union, due to continued second-class citizen status under United States law. This subsequent controversy caused the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) to investigate Robeson and his Communist sympathies. HUAC called upon Robinson, as a famed African American baseball player, to impugn Robeson.
Robeson's prior advocacy for Robinson
Robinson was reluctant to testify to HUAC on these matters, in part because of Robeson's prior advocacy on behalf of integration in professional baseball. Among other things, at the annual winter meeting of baseball owners in December 1943, Robeson became the first black man to address baseball owners on the subject of integration. At this meeting, Robeson argued that baseball, as a national game, had an obligation to ensure segregation did not become a national pattern. The owners gave Robeson a round of applause and, after the meeting, Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis remarked that there was no rule on the books denying blacks entry into the league. As such, Robeson had done much to pave the way for Jackie Robinson's entry into major league baseball, just over four years later.
Statement to The House Committee on Un-American Activities
In 1949, Jackie Robinson struggled with his decision to testify before The House Committee on Un-American Activities regarding the widely misquoted declaration made by the famous entertainer Paul Robeson that African Americans would not support the United States in a war with the Soviet Union due to their continued second-class citizen status under law following World War II. Technically, Robinson was not required to testify, but he knew there would be repercussions if he did not. In July 1949, Robinson eventually agreed to testify before HUAC, fearing that declining to do so might negatively and permanently damage his career. His testimony was a major media event, with Robinson's carefully-worded statement appearing on the front page of The New York Times the following day. In the statement – prepared with the help of Branch Rickey, who in order to facilitate the testimony, released Robinson from a prior agreement not to make any political statements during his baseball career – Robinson said that Robeson “has a right to his personal views, and if he wants to sound silly when he expresses them in public, that is his business and not mine . . . . He’s still a famous ex-athlete and a great singer and actor.” Robinson also stated that "the fact that it is a Communist who denounces injustice in the courts, police brutality, and lynching when it happens doesn't change the truth of his charges," and that racial discrimination is not "a creation of Communist imagination." Robinson left the capital immediately after his testimony to avoid, as the black newspaper New Age, pointed out, "being Jim Crowed by Washington's infamous lily-white hotels."
In general, Robinson's testimony pleased many Americans worried about the very real threat of Communism, and reaction in the mainstream press was very positive, including an article by Eleanor Roosevelt in which she wrote, "Mr. Robeson does his people great harm in trying to line them up on the Communist side of political picture. Jackie Robinson helped them greatly by his forthright statements." Reaction in the black press was mixed.
Much later, in 1963, after Robinson expressed disagreement with the political positions of the Nation of Islam, then-Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X commented harshly on Robinson's testimony concerning Robeson, citing the testimony as an example of Robinson's submissiveness to the white establishment.
Robinson and Robeson respond
While Robeson considered Robinson's testimony a "disservice" to the black community, he declined to comment on Robinson personally: "I am not going to permit the issue to boil down to a personal feud between me and Jackie. To do that, would be to do exactly what the other group wants us to do." Jackie Robinson appreciated Robeson's restraint, and eventually grew to have greater admiration for Robeson. Near the end of his life, Robinson wrote in his autobiography about the incident:
However, in those days I had much more faith in the ultimate justice of the American white man than I have today. I would reject such an invitation if offered now . . . . I have grown wiser and closer to the painful truths about America’s destructiveness. And I do have increased respect for Paul Robeson who, over the span of twenty years, sacrificed himself, his career, and the wealth and comfort he once enjoyed because, I believe, he was sincerely trying to help his people.
- Jackie Robinson (English). Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved on May 3, 2009.
- Long, Michael G., ed (2007). First Class Citizenship: the Civil Rights Letters of Jackie Robinson. Henry Holt. ISBN 0805087109.
- Robinson's Later Career: 1957-1972. in Baseball, the Color Line, and Jackie Robinson, via Library of Congress
- Foner, Philip S (1978). "Address to The Paris Peace Conference", Paul Robeson Speaks. ISBN 9780806508153.
- Paul Robeson Appears Before HUAC. History Matters. Retrieved on 2009-04-09.
- Duberman, p. 358.
- Un-American Activities, House Committee on. History. Retrieved on 2008-11-12.
- West, Jean. Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, Interview Essay. Retrieved on 2009-04-15.
- Tygiel, Jules (1983). Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-503300-0.
- Robinson, Jackie (1972). "Breaking the Color Barrier", I Never Had It Made. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0060555971.
- Duberman, pp. 361–62.
- Whitfield, Stephen J. (1996). The Culture of the Cold War (2d. ed.). ISBN 9780801851957.
- Duberman, p. 361.
- Duberman, p. 360.
- Bogle, Donald (2001). Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies & Bucks. New York: Continuum, 184–185. ISBN 0826412676.
- Duberman, p. 527.
- Foner, Philip S (1978). "Let's Not Be Divided", Paul Robeson Speaks. ISBN 9780806508153.
- Robinson, Jackie (1972). "My Own Man", I Never Had It Made. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 85–86. ISBN 0060555971.