It seems like whenever Americans talk about race there is a very good chance that you will hear the name Jackie Robinson, most know that he is considered the first African American to play Major League Baseball. What people sometimes don’t know, is what Jackie’s early life was like, where he came from, where he grew up, his family story, and his childhood.
Linge states: “Jackie Robinson was born to sharecroppers who lived on a large farm near
Cairo, Georgia.”(1) If you know what sharecroppers were then you know that Jackie wasn’t born into a prosperous family, however history can tell you he didn’t let this or anything else keep him from achieving great things.
At the age of one year old Jackie’s father abandoned the family, Linge tells us: “Jerry
Robinson was gone for good, and his youngest son never heard from him again. Jackie Robinson would remain bitter about his father’s abandonment until the end of his life.”(3) Shortly after this Jackie and his family moved to Pasadena CA, Trying to escape the racism of the south.
Even at the early stage of his life where Jackie was only in Kindergarten he had a reputation for his athletic ability, Linge tells us: “Jackie’s athletic skills soon became just as well known at school. Not only did kids “pay” him with snacks and pocket change to play on their teams, at Cleveland Elementary he made several of his lifelong friends, including Ray Bartlett and Sid Heard, who shared his taste for sports.”(6)
With racism rampant in the early 1900’s Jackie found peace and equality in sports, Linge states: “To Jack, though, sports had another meaning as well: they were ‘the big breach in the wall of segregation about me. In primary and high school white boys treated me like an equal’.”
(6) I think we can all relate to this, at some time in our lives we all have had something that we do to take our mind off of difficult things happening around us.
During high school Jackie would play many sports, and even though he played more than one sport he would show skill in all of them. Linge confirms this by saying: “Washington
Junior High had a well organized sports program, and he jumped into it with both feet, playing basketball and baseball, running track, and—his new love—leading the football team as its quarterback. He displayed “amazing skill” at the position.”(9)
Jackie could definitely play sports, we can be sure of that but no amount of athletic talent could diminish the threat of racism and segregation. Linge tells us, “But while
Pasadenans of all races would cheer for Jack during games, life beyond athletics was just as painfully segregated as ever.”(9) But Jackie was about to turn a corner in his life, he was about to graduate high school and head off to college to begin a new chapter in his story.
Linge says: “Completing high school at the end of January, Robinson followed his brother Mack into Pasadena Junior College (PJC). That spring he made the baseball team at shortstop. He was an eye-catching fielder and a patient hitter who quickly took the leadoff…