Jackie Robinson: Shaking the Foundation

Posted on July 21, 2022

by Kostya Kennedy

True: The 4 Seasons of Jackie Robinson by Kostya Kennedy is a probing, richly-detailed, distinctive biography of Jackie Robinson, one among baseball’s—and America’s—most important figures. Learn an excerpt under.

The Nationwide Affiliation for the Development of Coloured Folks started awarding the Spingarn Medal in 1915, six years into the group’s existence. Per instruction of J. E. Spingarn, the award’s creator after which chairman of the NAACP’s board, the medal was to honor “the best or noblest achievement by a residing American Negro through the previous yr or years.” (At present the language reads: “for the best achievement of an American of African descent.”) The medal, made from strong gold, is awarded yearly, with the recipient decided by committee. The primary Spingarn Medal went to Ernest Everett Simply, a mobile biologist and a professor at Howard College. W. E. B. Du Bois acquired the award in 1920, George Washington Carver in ’23. Mary Bethune Cookman in ’35, Thurgood Marshall in ’46. Over its first 4 a long time, the Spingarn Medal went to educators, writers, civil rights advocates, scientists, musicians, political leaders, legal professionals, historians, actors, activists, and businesspeople, amongst others. By no means did it go to an athlete: not Jesse Owens or Joe Louis or Sugar Ray Robinson—or others who had damaged boundaries or achieved the head of their sport.

When, within the late spring of 1956, the NAACP committee ready to pick that yr’s Spingarn Medal recipient, highly effective candidates emerged. Conspicuously, there was Autherine Lucy, a twenty-six-year-old English trainer who, after a three-year courtroom battle, had gained the appropriate to attend the College of Alabama as the varsity’s first Black pupil. Her presence, in February, led to campus rioting—a automobile she rode in was pelted with rocks, her classroom got here underneath siege by a mob—and shortly thereafter, the college expelled her, defying a courtroom order. “They stoned me, they cursed me, they burnt me in effigy, however they didn’t discourage me,” Lucy wrote describing the riots. In articles and in public speeches, Lucy vowed to press on till she “and others of [her] race” had their rightful entry to schooling.

“For the lifetime of me, I can’t perceive how the NAACP may move over an excellent and brave individual like Autherine Lucy in making the Spingarn Award,” wrote Ralph Ewing, a reader from Detroit, to Baltimore’s Afro-American after the medal winner was introduced.

One other candidate for the Spingarn Medal that yr was Martin Luther King Jr. Since December of 1955, he had been on the forefront of what was creating right into a watershed of the civil rights motion, the Montgomery bus boycott. Already, the boycott’s implications past the bounds of town, and the state of Alabama, had been changing into obvious. “We’re within the midst of an excellent battle, the implications of which might be world-shaking,” Dr. King stated from his pulpit on the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. He and different leaders of the boycott had been arrested, threatened, and buffeted by violence—somebody had exploded a bomb on the porch of the Kings’ residence—and had not bent. When Dr. King got here to Brooklyn in March, to talk on the Harmony Baptist Church, ten thousand individuals turned out and gave him a reception, as one newspaper described it, “normally reserved for its favourite heroes, the Dodgers.” By late April, greater than a dozen bus firms within the South had deserted their insurance policies of segregation.

At twenty-seven, Dr. King was figuring out the tone of the bigger motion and defining the ideas that may maintain his management within the decade to return. “If we’re arrested day-after-day, if we’re exploited day-after-day, if we’re trampled over day-after-day, let no person pull you so low as to hate them,” he preached to an enormous crowd in Montgomery. “We should use the weapon of affection. We should have compassion and understanding for many who hate us. So many individuals have been taught to hate us, taught from the cradle.”

Within the phrases that he preached and within the phrases that he instructed himself throughout that point, King echoed the spirit that had guided Robinson by means of his groundbreaking years in baseball, the identical backside line: “You have to be keen to endure the anger of the opponent and but not return anger,” King stated in self-admonishment after succumbing to rage and indignance through the bus boycott. “You will need to not change into bitter. Irrespective of how emotional your opponents are, you have to be calm.” He had accomplished a doctorate in systematic theology, and had discovered alongside the way in which a lodestar in Gandhi, who, as King described it, had “lifted the love ethic of Jesus above mere interactions between people to a robust and efficient social drive.”

Dr. King additionally didn’t obtain the Spingarn Medal in 1956 (he acquired it the next yr), though each he and Autherine Lucy attended, and addressed, the NAACP’s annual conference, the place the medal was historically offered. In San Francisco, over a number of days of speeches and occasions in late June (Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP’s lead lawyer, delivered the keynote; Marshall and King debated insurance policies round college segregation), the Spingarn Medal, whereas cited, was not, in actual fact bestowed. Its recipient hadn’t made it to the conference, on account of his having work obligations in Brooklyn.

“It’s past query the fun of my lifetime,” Robinson stated when instructed he had been named the Spingarn winner. He’d taken the telephone name at his residence in Stamford. Plaques commemorating his a few years of athletic achievement hung densely on a paneled wall, and the backyard outdoors the home windows was coming into its summer season bloom. “You may’t emphasize an excessive amount of how more than happy I’m.”

In accordance with the NAACP’s govt secretary, Roy Wilkins, Robinson was chosen for “his excellent sportsmanship, his pioneer function in breaking the colour bar in organized baseball and his civic consciousness.” Information of Robinson’s honor acquired appreciable consideration, inside and with out the Black press. A baseball participant! There had come to be a larger understanding of how far outdoors the boundaries of sports activities Robinson resounded. “His entrance into organized baseball has finished as a lot as anything to result in understanding on this nation,” urged Muriel Richardson of Charlottesville, to the Afro-American. A columnist for the Alabama Tribune in Montgomery wrote, “Those that have identified second-class citizenship, the humiliating scars of denial, segregation, discrimination and people fringe monsters of Jim Crow will perceive the torment that Jackie suffered in breaking the colorline. Few Individuals have been extra deserving of the Spingarn than Jackie.”

That December, at a Saturday luncheon within the Palm Room on the Lodge Roosevelt on Madison Avenue within the middle of Manhattan, Robinson accepted the medal. The newspaper columnist and tv host Ed Sullivan offered, and when he did, and Robinson went to the lectern, the room stood in extended ovation. “To be honored on this manner means greater than something that has occurred to me earlier than,” Robinson stated. “The NAACP represents every little thing {that a} man ought to stand for—for human dignity, for brotherhood, for truthful play.”

Thurgood Marshall and W. E. B. Du Bois and Floyd Patterson sat among the many viewers, and all of the tables had been full, and Robinson’s speech stored getting interrupted by applause. “And now, together with your indulgence, I wish to ask my spouse to return and share this honor with me,” stated Robinson, and as Rachel rose from her seat on the dais, so, too, did the friends rise from their seats on the tables, and the room rocked once more with fervent clapping and the chandeliers shook as Rachel got here ahead and stood at Jackie’s left facet. “It’s hers totally as a lot as it’s mine,” he stated of the Spingarn honor. “My profession and no matter success I’ve attained had been made potential by my beloved spouse.… She is the principal purpose I’m standing right here at this time.” Jackie Jr., ten years previous, sat on the dais alongside members of the NAACP board of administrators.

On that afternoon—buoyed by the burden and the implication of the Spingarn Medal—Robinson was partially wanting towards his time after baseball, for methods he would possibly prolong and improve the mission of his life. He knew that his public energy would all the time emanate from his immutable accomplishment as a ballplayer. “He was a freedom rider earlier than freedom rides,” Martin Luther King Jr. would later say. For all Robinson’s activism and stoicism within the years to return, for all of the stands he would take and the language he would use, Robinson’s most searing eloquence would stay rooted in the way in which he shook the inspiration as a younger man. From the primary second he stepped onto a baseball subject as a Montreal Royal to the final time he left the diamond with the Dodgers brand stitched throughout his breast, Robinson gave to the world a profound and enduring expression, articulated in the way in which that he performed the sport.

Copyright © 2022 by Kostya Kennedy. All rights reserved.

Kostya Kennedy is an editorial director at Dotdash Meredith and a former senior author at Sports activities Illustrated. He’s the New York Occasions bestselling writer of 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Final Magic Quantity in Sports activities (runner-up for the 2012 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports activities Writing) and Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. Each gained the CASEY Award for Greatest Baseball Guide of the Yr. He has taught at Columbia and NYU, and lives along with his spouse and daughters in Westchester County, New York.

Tags: Baseball, Baseball historical past, Jackie Robinson, Kostya Kennedy, True