As everyone takes the time to honor Martin Luther King today, let’s also take a moment to remember Jackie Robinson, was breaking down racial barriers before King sparked the Civil Rights movement.
Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1945. Two years later, he would break the Major League’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, go on to build a 10-year Hall of Fame career and inspire countless others to follow in his footsteps.
But his impact went beyond baseball. Bob Kendrick of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City tries to put it all into perspective in an interview with MLB.com.
At its core, it was a Civil Rights story because the Negro Leagues would give us Jackie Robinson, who was obviously one of America’s greatest heroes,” Kendrick said. “What the museum does is somewhat boldly make the assertion that Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier wasn’t just an important part of the Civil Rights movement, but [it] actually signaled the beginning of what we believe to be the modern Civil Rights movement in this country.”
Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Branch Rickey in 1945 and soon made history in the Majors.
“We’re talking 1947, and this was before Brown v. Board of Education and before Rosa Park’s refusal to move to the back of the bus and, as we relate to Dr. King, he was only a sophomore at Morehouse when Robinson signed his contract to play with Brooklyn in 1945,” Kendrick said.
We won’t give a complete recap of Robinson’s history, though this isn’t a bad place to start if you’re not familiar with his story.
He didn’t just break baseball’s color barrier, he did it with dignity and class, and Martin Luther King carried himself in a similar manner while sparking the Civil Rights movement. Both men have stood as a golden standard for others to follow. (Just ask Hall of Famer Dave Winfield)
So when pondering the impact of King, don’t forget Jackie Robinson, whose impact carried far beyond sports.