The Thoughts Ideas and Motivations of Jackie Robinson during the Civil Rights Movement





JACKIE ROBINSON



To the average person, in the average American community, Jackie Robinson was just what the sports pages said he was, no more, no less. He was the first Negro to play baseball in the major leagues. Everybody knew that, but to see the real Jackie Robinson, you must de-emphasize him as a ball player and emphasize him as a civil rights leader. That part drops out, that which people forget. From his early army days, until well after his baseball days, Robinson had fought to achieve equality among whites and blacks. “Jackie acted out the philosophy of nonviolence of Martin Luther King Jr., before the future civil rights leader had thought of applying it to the problem of segregation in America”(Weidhorn 93). Robinson was an avid member of the NAACP and helped recruit members because of his fame from baseball. Jackie had leadership qualities and the courage to fight for his beliefs. Unwilling to accept the racism he had run into all his life, he had a strong need to be accepted at his true worth as a first-class citizen. Robinson was someone who would work for a cause - that of blacks and of America - as well as for himself and his team.
“In his early days in the Army, he established himself as a fighter for civil rights”(Weidhorn 40-1). The U.S. Army was segregated about the time Robinson enlisted. He felt for the first time in his life what it was like to be a second-class citizen as a part of his daily life. Jackie had too much pride though, to let things stay the way they were. Many blacks accepted how things were in the army. Robinson knew that if he tried hard enough, he could change things. One particular event caused Robinson to stand up for his rights, almost to the point of being court-martialed from the Army.
“According to Texas laws, blacks were suppose to sit in the back of the bus. According to army regulations, seating was not segregated. The driver, a local civilian, thought that the woman Jackie was talking to was white…The outraged bus driver ordered Jackie to the back of the bus. Jackie knew his rights on an army base…Jackie would not move. On reaching the last stop, the bus driver quickly brought over several white men and two military policemen…The MP’s took Jackie to a captain, who saw in him only an “uppity nigger” trying to make trouble. He filed a series of charges against Jackie”(Weidhorn 28).

Robinson did not take this incident passively. He spread word to other black officers, who in turn contacted black newspapers and civil rights groups, who demanded that the charges be dropped. Instead of fighting the Japanese or German enemy, Robinson had to fight the racism and stupidity of his fellow Americans. Robinson was eventually honorably discharged from the Army for medical reasons. Baseball soon became a big part of Robinson’s life.
Jackie Robinson’s entry into the Major Leagues was far from a walk in the park. He climbed over countless obstacles just to play with white men, some of which, he was better then. He not only had to compete with the returning players from the war, but he also contended with racism. “Many towns in the South did not want racially mixed teams”(Weidhorn 53). As time went on, cities realized that Robinson offered them free publicity.
“The Dodgers presence also brought extra business to the town. This helped teach some Southern officials and businessmen to over look, at least sometimes, the color of a person’s skin. That lesson gradually spread to the rest of baseball and, years later, became a theme of the civil rights movement”(Weidhorn 53).

Some players did not agree with Negroes playing baseball. Most did not support Robinson, but they did not oppose him. Some Southerners were a little uneasy, but quickly came around. Robinson’s charm helped to win some over; his skills won the rest. Robinson was uneasy and nervous as opposing teams started to shout racist comments towards him. “We had agreed that I had no right to lose my temper and jeopardize the chances of all the blacks who would follow me if I could help break down the