Contexts for Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson was the first African-American player in modern "organized" baseball, playing for the Montreal Royals in 1946 and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. To provide some context, here are some links to the initial integration of other sports and leagues, and the integration of other institutions and activities, and other hallmarks in the desegregation of the United States.
The focus is on the 20th century. To overgeneralize enormously, integration in the 19th century was almost nonexistent till the Civil War, and then made huge strides in the decade 1865-1875, only to be rolled back to near-complete segregation of the South and de facto segregation in much of the North by the turn of the 20th century. The history of race in the United States in the 20th century is of slow progress toward civil rights in many fields, starting from almost nowhere.
- Symbolism at the start of the century: Theodore Roosevelt invites Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House, 1901. (There were no photo opportunities, though someone created an image of the Roosevelt/Washington dinner using primeval Photoshop
- College Football (in northern schools) was integrated almost from its beginnings in the 19th century. Among notable early 20th-century black college football stars were Paul Robeson of Rutgers and Fritz Pollard of Brown. Pollard also played in the early NFL in the 1920s, though lasting integration of the NFL was not achieved till considerably later
- Boxing: Jack Johnson defeated Jim Jeffries to become world heavyweight champion, 1908
- Congress: many blacks had served in the US Congress during Reconstruction, and a few won seats until the last years of the 19th century in Republican-controlled districts in the South. But not until the election of Oscar DePriest as a Republican Congressman from the South Side of Chicago in 1928 did an African-American gain election from a Northern state
- Music: the role of race in music is extraordinarily complicated, with audiences, talent, and genres segregating and integrating at various rates during the century. (The very existence of R&B charts, which exist to this day, points to the importance of race in marketing music.)
- Jazz was a great mixer of ethnicities. Though most big bands were segregated (compare Jimmie Lunceford's with Artie Shaw's), small combos that featured black and white talent playing together on equal terms were common in the 1930s and 40s (left to right: Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa).
- Broadway: Though black performers had long been popular with white audiences, Show Boat by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein was the first great integrated Broadway musical (1927). Jules Bledsoe introduced the song "Ol' Man River," but the song became associated with Paul Robeson, whom we've met on the Rutgers football field
- Classical music: the greatest mid-20th century black female singer was Marian Anderson. When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused Anderson a chance to sing at Constitution Hall in 1939, Eleanor Roosevelt helped arrange an appearance by Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial that became a great symbol of integration. In 1955 Anderson became the first black featured singer at the Metropolitan Opera, in Verdi's Ballo in Maschera.
- US Olympic teams had been integrated from the start; among early medal winners were sprinter John Taylor in 1908 and long jumper William Dehart Hubbard in 1924. But of course Jesse Owens, in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, won four gold medals in track & field, to become the greatest American Olympic star of the mid-20th century.
- Joe Louis won the heavyweight title from "Cinderella Man" James Braddock in 1937 and held it throughout the 1940s
- Motion pictures: Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American to win an Academy Award for acting. (As late as 2002, Whoopi Goldberg joked at the Oscars: "I thought the blacklist was me and Hattie McDaniel.") Not till 1968 (Sidney Poitier) did a black movie star top the box-office lists.
- Defense contractors' employment practices were integrated by President Franklin Roosevelt's EO 8802 in 1941. It wasn't Roosevelt's idea; pressure from activists Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph led to the order
- Pro football: The NFL was integrated by Kenny Washington and Woody Strode in 1946. The third man in their backfield at UCLA? Jackie Robinson
- Pro basketball: the NBA was integrated in 1950 by three players: Chuck Cooper, Nat Clifton, and Earl Lloyd.
- College basketball, like college football, had been integrated since its inception at some northern schools. One of the earliest major black stars played at UCLA: no points for guessing who. Don Barksdale followed Robinson to stardom at UCLA, and then for the Celtics. Bill Garrett was the first black player in the Big Ten (Indiana, 1947). By the late 1950s, black stars dominated college basketball, including Maurice Stokes at St. Francis (can you name the other three stars in the picture?), Oscar Robertson at Cincinnati, Wilt Chamberlain at Kansas, and Bill Russell at the University of San Francisco. But the most memorable advances came in 1963, when Loyola (Chicago) won the NCAA championship with four black starters, and in 1966, when Texas Western won the title with five – against all-white Kentucky
- The US military was integrated by order of President Truman (EO 9981) in 1948
- First "black" TV series? Amos 'n' Andy, 1951. Ironically, on the radio Amos and Andy were voiced by white actors. On TV, where by 1951 blackface would have been unthinkable, the characters were reinterpreted by African-Americans
- Brown v. Board of Education, 1954
- Graduate school at the University of Alabama: Autherine Lucy, shown here with Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshall, 1955
- Buses in Montgomery AL were integrated in 1956
- In 1956, Paul Robeson was investigated by the House Un-American Affairs Committee. Jackie Robinson testified that, contrary to Robeson's assertion, black Americans would fight in wars against Communism
- Despite Governor Orval Faubus and the "Mothers League of Little Rock Central High School," intervention by federal troops integrated that school in 1957
- Greensboro sit-ins in 1960
- 1962: Undergraduate school at the University of Mississippi: James Meredith walks to class with two federal marshals
- Civil Rights Act 1964; Voting Rights Act 1965
- College football (southern schools) integrated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, partly under pressure from the Federal Government's regulations and partly because SWC, SEC, and ACC teams liked to win football games. See Richard Pennington on the integration of college football in Texas. Basketball took a similar course; interesting on this U of Kentucky fan site is the composition of both playing and coaching staffs over the years
- The Cabinet? Robert C. Weaver, 1966. The Supreme Court? Thurgood Marshall, 1967: both were appointed by Lyndon Johnson
- Loving v. Virginia (1967) invalidated state laws banning interracial marriages
- Augusta National, the most exclusive American golf club, was integrated in 1991
- Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment, 1995
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