Jackie Robinson - Leadership, Success and Assertiveness
Jackie Robinson (1919 – 72)
African American baseball player.
- In 1947 the first African American since the 1880’s to play in America’s top baseball league, Major League
- Contributing significantly to the Civil Rights Movement, led by Martin Luther King (pictured right).
- Inspiring a 2013 film, 42 (Robinson’s jersey number).
For more detail see...
The March on
Washington in the History Highlights section.
Why was he a
He wanted to help others, motivated by his belief in God.
He told his mother:
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives”.
He was particularly concerned by the exploitation of his fellow African Americans and helped their civil rights
struggle through his:
- example (as a famous black sportsman – see point 2 below).
- campaigning and fundraising (after his baseball career).
- wrote to both presidents Eisenhower (pictured right above) and
Kennedy (pictured right) protesting
against their inaction on civil rights.
Robinson is pictured right at the march with his son.
“Life is not a spectator sport”, he said.
2. Leading by example
- was a great role model for all Americans (despite his hot temper – see point 3).
- helped to reduce racial hatred.
- inspired others to do great things.
His Brooklyn Dodgers teammate, Pee Wee Reese (pictured right together in 1952), bravely
came onto the field and famously put his hand around Robinson’s shoulder.
For many people, it was the first time they had seen friendly physical contact between blacks and whites.
During his first two seasons, he quietly accepted the horrific physical and verbal abuse of his opponents.
But, from 1949 onwards, his hot temper sometimes got the better of him
For example, he severely injured Davey Williams of the New York Giants (pictured
right) attempting to run over his teammate, Sal Maglie (pictured right below).
4. Courage and determination
The title of Robinson’s autobiography, I Never Had It Made, reflects his life’s constant
He had to endure:
- diabetes (making him nearly blind).
- heart disease (he died of a heart attack aged 53).
- racial prejudice (including death threats).
He received inspirational help from his:
- wife, Rachel (she and their three children, pictured right together, were great
- mother, Mallie (who brought up her five children on her own in Pasadena,
- grandmother, Edna Sims McGriff (Mallie’s mother and ex-slave).
- brother, Mack (a 200 metre silver medallist, pictured right, at the 1936 Berlin
Olympics behind the legendary Jesse Owens).
- boss at Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey (who courageously hired him in 1947, pictured
right together below).
6. Learning and assertiveness
Particularly from his mother and grandmother, he learned the importance of
- assertively fighting for your rights.
Key quotes on success
Life is not a spectator sport.
I won't 'have it made' until the most underprivileged Negro in Mississippi can live in equal dignity with anyone
else in America.
Key quote on influencing people
A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.
Key quote on America
Black America has asked so little, but if you can’t see the anger that comes from rejection, you are treading a
dangerous course (letter to Roland Elliott, President Nixon’s assistant)