This week’s release of “42,” the story of Jackie Robinson and the breaking of the color barrier in major league baseball should inspire families to learn more about this extraordinary athlete and groundbreaking figure in the early Civil Rights era. It was on this date in 1947 that he signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson’s grace, dignity, and extraordinary skill and teamwork began to change the perception of African-Americans. And the virulence of the racist attacks he suffered brought to the attention of many people who were ignorant or in denial how harshly racist American society was and how much damage those policies and attitudes inflicted.
Robinson played himself in The Jackie Robinson Story, with Ruby Dee as his wife.
Dee played Robinson’s mother in “The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson,” the story of Robinson’s fight against bigotry in the still-segregated US Army.
Here Robinson appears as a mystery guest on “What’s My Line?”
The Atlantic has an excellent piece about the historical context for Robinson’s offer from the Brooklyn Dodgers, including the efforts by sportswriters and activists to integrate baseball and a discussion of Robinson’s support for the Civil Rights movement. Robinson’s autobiography is I Never Had It Made, and other books include Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy and Jackie Robinson: A Biography. The Ken Burns series for PBS about the history of baseball has an episode called The National Pastime that includes Robinson’s story. Major League Baseball has adopted an annual tradition, “Jackie Robinson Day,” on which every player on every team wears #42.