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Legendary Jackie Robinson: Too bad he’s the wrong color

Lee A. Daniels | 4/22/2013, 12:17 p.m. | Updated on 4/22/2013, 5:33 p.m.
You could say 42, the film about the life of Brooklyn Dodgers great Jackie Robinson, is a gripping baseball tale, ...
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His most recent book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America. He collaborated with Rachel Robinson on her 1998 book, Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait. NNPA

In the immediate postwar environment, Robinson’s signing by the Branch Rickey-led Dodgers was the thunderclap that heralded the massing of new forces in the domestic fight to make America itself safe for democracy.

By then, Black Americans had the diverse organizational strength at the national and local levels to field multiple challenges to racism. By then, a still very small but growing number of White organizations – and individuals like Rickey – were actively looking for ways to break the numerous “color barriers” that characterized American society. And by then, America’s position of global leadership was beginning to exert pressure on it to live up to its boasts about loving freedom by extending it to Black Americans, too. It was no accident of history that within a year of Robinson’s breaking baseball’s color barrier, President Truman ordered the desegregation of America’s other signal mythic institution – the military.

Robinson’s story was but one facet of the diamond of Black determination that in the 20 years after World War II would dismantle the legalized structure of racism. But he – an extraordinarily gifted, fiercely competitive athlete who possessed a deeply spiritual, disciplined character – was superbly suited for the challenge he, and America, confronted.

The wrong color? Not on your life.

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His most recent book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America. He collaborated with Rachel Robinson on her 1998 book, Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait.