Jackie Robinson & Civil Rights

In anticipation of this weekend’s Virtual Pajama Party at the National Archives, we’re highlighting primary sources and online activities related to Jackie Robinson!

In 1947, Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s “color barrier” when he started his rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was the first Black man to play in the MLB in the 20th century. In the course of his distinguished 10-year career, Robinson led the Brooklyn Dodgers to six National League titles and one victorious World Series. In 1962 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Beyond his many and stellar baseball feats, Jackie Robinson went on to champion the cause of civil rights when he retired from the game. He attended the March on Washington in 1963 and wrote many letters to presidents and government officials.

In 1944 while in the Army, before his MLB career, Robinson was court-martialed on what he considered trumped-up charges after a racially-charged incident. He was later acquitted. In the online activity Analyzing a Letter from Jackie Robinson: “Fair Play and Justice,” students in grades 7-12 can analyze a letter that Lt. Robinson wrote to the War Department’s civilian aide Truman Gibson. Robinson asked Gibson if the newspapers should be notified to shine a national spotlight on the trial.

Robinson wrote to several U.S. Presidents urging them to take action on Civil Rights. In 1972 he sent a letter to the Nixon White House, stating: “We had better take some definitive action or I am afraid the consequences could be nation shattering.” In the activity Analyzing Jackie Robinson’s White House Letter, students in grades 7-12 can examine this letter to discover that racial equality had not been fully achieved, despite the end of the Civil Rights Movement in 1968.

Younger students in grades 2-4 can practice photograph analysis skills in our online activity “Looking Closer: Jackie Robinson.” They will use context clues to help them figure out Robinson’s job – playing baseball – and briefly learn about the challenges he faced breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

Join us for a Virtual Pajama Party on October 17th!

On October 17, please join us for our baseball-themed Virtual Pajama Party! This free, online event is for kids aged 8-12 and their grown ups. We will focus on Jackie Robinson and the historical fiction book The Hero Two Doors Down, written by children’s author Sharon Robinson, about a real episode in her father Jackie Robinson’s life. Ms. Robinson will join us as a special guest!

Writing and art activities activities are available in advance of the Pajama Party. Children and families can choose which activities work best for them, based on the themes: Welcoming Strangers, Heroes, and Making Mistakes & Making Changes.

Learn more and sign up!

You're invited to a free program for kids and their families! Virtual Pajama Party October 17, 8 pm ET
Join us for a Virtual Pajama Party on Saturday, October 17th from 8 to 9 pm ET! This online event for kids aged 8–12 will focus on Jackie Robinson and the book “The Hero Two Doors Down.”
Register today!

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