Jackie Robinson

Questions for Reflection

1) Jackie Robinson was the first African American Major League Baseball player. Do you think he primarily wanted to play baseball, and due to his race fell into the role of a Civil Rights icon, or do you think he primarily wanted to advance the cause of Civil Rights and utilized his athletic talent as a vehicle?

2) In his letter to President Eisenhower, Jackie Robinson expressed frustration at having been told to be "patient" with regards to the advancement of Civil Rights for African Americans. Martin Luther King later said "I have never engaged in any direct-action movement which did not seem ill-timed." How does timing affect the fighting for justice? How can timing be used as a tool to delay the advancement of justice?
3) Jackie Robinson was criticized for his support of Richard Nixon. Public figures are often criticized for their political views. How much of an affect should the political opinions of celebrities have on their reputations?
4) Jackie Robinson won the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, was an All-Star for six consecutive seasons, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award. He was also influential in the Civil Rights Movement, the Vice President and Director for Personnel for a major corporation, a director for Nelson Rockefeller's Presidential campaign, and a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. How do you think Jackie Robinson would feel about most people primarily remembering him for being the first African American Major League Baseball Player?                                                                                                                                      
5) Celebrity Correspondences with Presidents Theme Question: Should celebrities use their popularity for political influence? Why? Do you think Jackie Robinson used his position of influence appropriately? Why?


History By Mail Official Logo

Telegram from Jackie Robinson to E. Frederick Morrow
August 13, 1957
In this telegram, Jackie Robinson voices his opposition to the draft version of the 1957 Civil Rights act, which he and other Civil Rights leaders felt was too weak. Writing to Eisenhower's Presidential assistant E. Frederick Morrow, Jackie Robinson urges Eisenhower to veto the current form of the act. Eisenhower signed the bill into law instead. 

Telegram from Jackie Robinson to E. Frederick Morrow (August 13, 1957) - History By Mail


Draft Letter from Vice President Richard Nixon to Jackie Robinson 
November 4, 1960

This draft letter was written by then Vice President Richard Nixon four days before the 1960 presidential election. The handwritten notes are also Nixon's. Jackie Robinson had worked for Democratic Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey who had been eliminated in the primaries. Now Robinson, an independent, was deciding who to support. Robinson chose to support Richard Nixon, who he viewed as having a more promising civil rights record than JFK, a position he came to reevaluate. 

Draft Letter from Vice President Richard Nixon to Jackie Robinson (November 4, 1960) - History By Mail

Letter from Jackie Robinson to President J.F.K.
February 9, 1961

Robinson announced his support for Richard Nixon in the 1960 Presidential election and stated that JFK claimed to support civil rights while also courting racist southern voters. Bobby Kennedy retaliated by accusing Jackie of being anti-union. In this letter Jackie Robinson praises JFK for taking steps in the right direction yet notes that much more must be done to advance civil rights. 

Letter from Jackie Robinson to President J.F.K. (February 9, 1961) - History By Mail

Telegram from Jackie Robinson to President J.F.K.

June 15, 1963

Jackie Robinson wrote this telegram to the president three days after the assassination of Medgar Evers in Mississippi, urging him to protect Martin Luther King, Jr.  Evers, an influential Civil Rights activist who fought for equal rights and against segregation, was assassinated by a white supremacist and klansman in Jackson Mississippi on June 12th, 1963. Following his assignation, an estimated 5,000 people marched in a funeral procession in Jackson including MLK. and other key figures in the Civil Rights movement. In this telegram, Jackie Robinson urges President Kennedy to do everything in his power to protect M.L.K. during this dangerous time.  

Telegram from Jackie Robinson to President J.F.K. (June 15, 1963) page 1 - History By Mail
Telegram from Jackie Robinson to President J.F.K. (June 15, 1963) page 2 - History By Mail
Telegram from Jackie Robinson to President J.F.K. (June 15, 1963) page 3 - History By Mail

Photograph of Jackie Robinson and his son David being interviewed at the March on Washington

August 28, 1963

Jackie Robinson and his son David at the March on Washington (August 28, 1963) - History By Mail

Telegram from Jackie Robinson to President L.B.J.

March 9, 1965

On March 7, 1965, an estimated 525 to 600 civil rights marchers marched in Selma, Alabama in a Civil Rights protest. They were met with state troopers who began shoving the activists and knocking them to the ground and beating them with nightsticks. Other troopers fired teargas while still others charged the crowd on horseback. Horrifying images were televised to audiences worldwide and left the nation stunned. 17 marchers were hospitalized and 50 treated for lesser injuries. The day soon became known as "Bloody Sunday." Jackie Robinson was horrified, like so many around the world were, and urged President Johnson to take immediate action in this telegram dated just two days after Bloody Sunday. 

Telegram from Jackie Robinson to President L.B.J. (March 9, 1965)

Jackie Robinson Quotes

Life is not a spectator sport. . . . If you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you're wasting your life.

I believe in the goodness of a free society. And I believe that society can remain good only as long as we are willing to fight for it--and to fight against whatever imperfections may exist.

Baseball was just a part of my life. Thank God that I didn't allow a sport or a business or any part of my life to dominate me completely. . . . I felt that I had my time in athletics and that was it.

The right of every American to first-class citizenship is the most important issue of our time.

I don't think that I or any other Negro, as an American citizen, should have to ask for anything that is rightfully his. We are demanding that we just be given the things that are rightfully ours and that we're not looking for anything else.

I guess you'd call me an independent, since I've never identified myself with one party or another in politics. . . . I always decide my vote by taking as careful a look as I can at the actual candidates and issues themselves, no matter what the party label.

Civil rights is not by any means the only issue that concerns me--nor, I think any other Negro. As Americans, we have as much at stake in this country as anyone else. But since effective participation in a democracy is based upon enjoyment of basic freedoms that everyone else takes for granted, we need make no apologies for being especially interested in catching up on civil rights.

I won't 'have it made' until the most underprivileged Negro in Mississippi can live in equal dignity with anyone else in America.

It is up to us in the north to provide aid and support to those who are actually bearing the brunt of the fight for equality down south. America has its iron curtain too.

Negroes aren't seeking anything which is not good for the nation as well as ourselves. In order for America to be 100 per cent strong--economically, defensively, and morally--we cannot afford the waste of having second-and-third class citizens.