Chris Lamb: Jackie Robinson -- Crossing the Line





Chris Lamb, a professor of communication at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, is the author of the forthcoming book, "Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball." Email: lambc@cofc.edu

On Feb. 28, 1946, Jackie Robinson and his wife, Rachel, boarded an American Airlines flight in Los Angeles bound for Daytona Beach, Fla., for spring training. There he would try to prove that he was good enough to join the Montreal Royals, the top minor league team in the Brooklyn Dodgers' organization, and integrate professional baseball.

It would be more than a year before Robinson played his first game with Brooklyn, on April 15, 1947, breaking Major League Baseball's color line and forever changing baseball and society.

The story of the integration of baseball was perhaps the most important story involving racial equality in the years immediately following World War II. "Back in the days when integration wasn't fashionable," the Rev.Martin Luther King Jr. said of Robinson, "he underwent the trauma and humiliation and the loneliness which comes with being a pilgrim walking the lonesome byways toward the high road of freedom."

Never before — or since — had so much been riding on an athlete in surroundings so hostile as the Deep South in 1946, where racial discrimination was legal and brutally enforced, and where blacks who challenged it were jailed, beaten or lynched....



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