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How Did Jackie Robinson Make History?

Who Was Jackie Robinson?

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made history when he stepped onto the Brooklyn Dodgers Ebbets Field as the first African American to play in a Major League Baseball game. The controversial decision to put a black man on a major league team prompted a barrage of criticism and initially led to Robinsons mistreatment by fans and fellow players alike. Robinson endured that discrimination and rose above it, going on to win Rookie of the Year in 1947 as well as the National League MVP Award in 1949.

Hailed as a civil rights pioneer, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Robinson was also the first African-American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Dates: January 31, 1919 -- October 24, 1972

Also Known As: Jack Roosevelt Robinson

Childhood in Georgia

Jackie Robinson was the fifth child born to sharecropper parents Jerry Robinson and Mallie McGriff Robinson in Cairo, Georgia. His ancestors had worked as slaves on the same property that Jackies parents farmed. Jerry left the family to look for work in Texas when Jackie was six months old, with the promise that he would send for his family once he was settled. But Jerry Robinson never returned. (In 1921, Mallie received word that Jerry had died, but could never substantiate that rumor.)

After struggling to keep the farm going by herself, Mallie realized it was impossible. She needed to find another way to support her family, but also felt it was no longer safe to stay in Georgia.

Violent racial riots and lynchings of blacks were on the rise in the summer of 1919, especially in the southeastern states. Seeking a more tolerant environment, Mallie and several of her relatives pooled their money together to buy train tickets. In May 1920, when Jackie was 16 months old, they all boarded a train for Los Angeles.

The Robinsons Move to California

Mallie and her children moved into an apartment in Pasadena, California with her brother and his family. She found work cleaning houses and eventually earned enough