Photograph of Jackie Robinson in 1950. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Jackie Robinson (1919–1972)
Professional Athlete, Civil Rights Activist, Medal of Freedom Recipient
The son of sharecroppers, Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia, but soon moved with his family to California. Robinson was an outstanding high school and junior college athlete and received special recognition for his academic accomplishments and community service while enrolled at Pasadena Junior College. Experiences with racism motivated Robinson to work toward advancing civil rights on and off the playing field for the rest of his life. He enrolled at UCLA in 1939 and became the first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. After a brief career in the U.S. military, he began his professional baseball career in the Negro Baseball League in 1945 with the Kansas City Monarchs. When Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers two years later, he became the first African-American baseball player since the 1880s to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier. Robinson was voted Rookie of the Year in 1947 and played in six World Series. After ten successful seasons, he retired from baseball in 1957 and in 1962 became the first African American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Robinson remained committed to the civil rights movement until his death in 1972 and was honored posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1984.