Jackie Robinson in military uniform in 1945. (Bettmann, via Getty Images)
How Jackie Robinson fought racism in the Army
Jackie Robinson, who emerged from a small house on Pepper Street in Pasadena to become an American icon, was born this week in 1919. Before he broke baseball’s color barrier, Robinson was an Army second lieutenant at Camp Hood in Texas.
As recounted in “Jackie Robinson: A Biography,” on the evening of July 6, 1944, a white bus driver ordered 25-year-old Robinson to move to the back of an Army bus despite a new regulation desegregating military buses. Outraged, he refused. Military police arrived. When a soldier approached and leveled a racist slur, Robinson dared him to say it again, adding, “I’ll break you in two.”
The encounter led to a court-martial for insubordination and, when Robinson fought the charges, an acquittal. Three years later he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in one of the great triumphs of American history. Eight years after that, in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for her act of defiance in Montgomery, Alabama.
Read more: National WWII Museum | PBS
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