I never knew anything about Robinson’s politics, so that’s quite interesting. But what I’ve always found most compelling about him is what I’ve learned more generally about his character. Because it was known that the first black major league ballplayer would take tremendous abuse, Branch Rickey et al had to handpick somebody who could simply take that abuse, not someone who would try to shout it down or “get up in anyone’s face” about it. Wisely, they knew putting a hothead in that role would be disastrous for the ultimate integration of the sport.
I’ve read that although Robinson was enormously talented, there were other Negro Leagues players who were considered more talented - but lacked that singular strength of character. Robinson was able to go about his business with quiet dignity, come what may. In other words, he behaved in a manner that to some (vile) people would make him an Uncle Tom. Yet by not fighting back and simply letting his excellence speak for itself, he won the day for the black players who would follow him.
In other words, he demonstrated that it’s not enough to be a figurehead, to be “the first” at something (hint, hint, Mr. President). It was HOW he went about it that made all the difference.
Bravo. Well stated.
More Baloney from the foolish Grand Old Potty-son.
Robinson was no Republican. He was a Civil Rights activist and that came first. Do some research. Preach this BS to educated blacks in America and you will bring discredit to yourself and the right, looking like them just like the left does, trying to pander like them. Robinson was a serious and complicated man with no political affiliation, but dedication to civil rights;
“By the time of a March 1960 Howard University student press conference, Jackie was so disenchanted with Eisenhower that he was quoted as saying about the President: “He seems more interested in playing 18 holes of golf than in the rights of 18 million Negroes.”(8)
With Kennedy and Johnson, he was wary at the outset, believing both men cared more about political expediency than the correctness of a particular deed. Jackie came to change his mind and duly informed each President so. Still, there were times when he felt constrained to publicly express disagreement, as when he informed LBJ in a telegram addressed to the White House: “do you really think you can fool all the people all the time?”(9) The ex-baseballer earlier labeled presidential candidate Kennedy “the fair-haired boy of the Southern segregationists” and in an anti-Kennedy campaign flyer characterized the senator as reluctant “to look you straight in the eye, when talking about Civil Rights.”(10)
Initially he was high on Richard Nixon and campaigned for the Vice President in 1960 against John Kennedy after Hubert Humphrey, whom he originally supported, dropped out of the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination. Yet by 1968, Jackie grew disappointed with what he viewed as Nixon’s tepid stance on civil rights and chose to campaign actively against him. In April 1972 a now much-subdued Robinson wrote a Nixon White House deputy that in retrospect he believed that Presidents only engaged in “smoke screen” deceptions to trick blacks into believing that there was official support for obtaining legitimate racial aims.(11)
In conclusion, what do these documentary materials reveal or confirm about the non-baseball Robinson? Certainly that he lived life passionately and defiantly “out there” as a gladiator for what he believed in and gave his best effort in whichever arena he performed.
According to Jackie, one of America’s most notable strengths of America was its racial diversity, and if capable individuals were allowed to compete freely without false barriers, society as a whole would benefit. He counted himself as living proof of that premise.
1. Nontextual collections are housed in the National Archives at College Park, MD. Paramount, Movietone, and Universal films are found in the National Archives Collection of Donated Materials (formerly Record Group 200).
2. 200-U(niversal) N(ews)-6077-1, 200-UN-22-309, 200-P(aramount) N(ews)-8-50, 200-UN-22-267, and 200-PN-8-96, National Archives Collection of Donated Materials.
3. See “P,” “PS,” and “PSA” series in Records of the United States Information Agency, Record Group 306, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC (hereinafter, records in the National Archives will be cited as RG ___, NARA).
4. See records filed under War Department decimal number 291.2 (”race”), Records of the Office of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917-, RG 407, NARA.
5. Civilian Aide to the Secretary of War, (”Truman Gibson”) Files, Records of the Office of the Secretary of War, RG 107, NARA.
6. Court-Martial Case Files, 1939-1953, Records of the Judge Advocate General (Army), RG 153, NARA. (Permission to use these records must be obtained from the Department of the Army.)
7. Robinson to Gibson, Sept. 30, 1944, and Gibson to Robinson, Oct. 11, 1944, Gibson Files, RG 107, NARA.
8. WNYC (Mutual Broadcasting System) Press Release, Mar. 25, 1960, p. 2, Richard Nixon Pre-Presidential Papers, National Archives and Records Administration-Pacific Region (Laguna Niguel), CA.
9. Telegram, Robinson to Lyndon Johnson, Aug. 21, 1968, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, Austin, TX.
10. Flyer, “Why Jackie Robinson Opposes Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson,” n.d., Nixon Pre-Presidential Papers, NARA-Pacific Region (Laguna Niguel).
11. Jackie Robinson to Roland L. Elliot, Apr. 20, 1972, folder “Gen HU 2-1 1-1-12-12/31/72,” box 20, White House Central Files, Nixon Presidential Materials Staff, College Park, MD.
Falkner, David. Great Time Coming: The Life of Jackie Robinson from Baseball to Birmingham (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995)
Frommer, Harvey. Rickey and Robinson: The Men Who Broke Baseball’s Color Barrier (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co, Inc., 1992)
Robinson, Jackie, with Alfred Duckett. I Never Had It Made (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1972)
Rowan, Carl, with Jackie Robinson. Wait Till Next Year: The Life Story of Jackie Robinson (New York: Random House, 1960)
Tygiel, Jules. Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983)