Black History Month: Jackie Robinson

On January 31, Jackie Robinson would have turned 100 years old. The New York Times published a feature celebrating his life in 100 photos. One of the photographs shows Robinson (center) with fellow UCLA stars Woody Strode (left) and Kenny Washington in 1939 from the Bettmann Archive/Getty Images. This image was also used on the cover of The Black Bruins: The Remarkable Lives of UCLA’s Jackie Robinson, Woody Strode, Tom Bradley, Kenny Washington, and Ray Bartlett (Nebraska, 2018) by James W. Johnson:


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The Black Bruins chronicles the inspirational lives of Robinson, Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Ray Bartlett, and Tom Bradley—who all faced racial discrimination as teammates at UCLA in the late 1930s. The four played starring roles in an era when fewer than a dozen major colleges had black players on their rosters. This book isn’t the only title on UNP’s backlist that explores part of Robinson’s life.

9780803280472In the spring of 1946, Robinson went to his first spring training. UNP author Chris Lamb tells what happened during these six weeks in segregated Florida in Blackout (Nebraska, 2004). Robinson broke professional baseball’s color barrier in 1947.

A little bit further along in his baseball career, Jackie Robinson was teammates with Roy Campanella. Both were star players for the 1955 World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers, civically-minded, and would seem to be natural allies. But the two men were divided by a rivalry going far beyond the personality differences and petty jealousies of competitive teammates. Behind the bitterness were deep and differing beliefs about the fight for civil rights. This story is explored in Jackie and Campy: The Untold Story of Their Rocky Relationship and the Breaking of Baseball’s Color Line (Nebraska, 2014).

Fast forward to 2019 on UNP’s list, Reclaiming 42: Public Memory and the Reframing of Jackie Robinson’s Radical Legacy (June 2019) illuminates how public memory of Robinson has undergone changes over the last sixty-plus years. It moves his story beyond Robinson the baseball player, opening a new, broader interpretation of an otherwise seemingly convenient narrative to show how Robinson’s legacy ultimately should both challenge and inspire public memory. Pre-order Reclaiming 42 today!





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