Jackie Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Georgia. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1942 and served in Kansas. The country was still segregated, including the military.
The military preceded the rest of the country in ending segregation, and in 1943 the War Department desegregated military buses (full military integration did not become law until 1948). On July 6, 1944, 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson climbed onto a military bus and sat down in the front of the bus. Other passengers insisted he move to the back of the bus, but Robinson stayed firm and remained in his seat.
On August 2, 1944, Robinson was court-martialed for refusing the switch seats. As he continued to tell the truth, it became apparent that those called to testify against him all had different versions of the story, and Robinson was acquitted. He was honorably discharged the same year, and pursued what he would become best known for: baseball.
Originally signed to the Negro League, Jackie Robinson signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and on April 15, 1947, he not only broke the color barrier of baseball by becoming the first African-American to play professional baseball, but he also became the league’s first Rookie of the Year.
While he achieved so much during his career, his ability to play baseball did not protect him from racism, and he received hate mail and death threats for his entire career. After he retired from baseball, Robinson spent the rest of his life as an activist for Civil Rights, and increasing African-American access to housing and banks.
Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America by Sharon Robinson (yes, his daughter!)
High School and Beyond: