Jackie Robinson Fund
Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia, on January 31, 1919, the youngest of five children born to Jerry Robinson and Mallie McGriff Robinson. His middle name was in honor of former President Theodore Roosevelt, who died 25 days before Robinson was born. After Robinson’s father left the family in 1920, they moved to Pasadena, California.
Robinson became an outstanding athlete at Pasadena Junior College and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he excelled in football, basketball, baseball, and track. Robinson withdrew from UCLA in his third year to help his mother care for the family. In 1942 he entered the U.S. Army, attended officer candidate school, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1943. Robinson faced a court-martial in 1944 for refusing to follow an order that he sit at the back of a military bus. The charges against him were dismissed, and he received an honorable discharge from the military. After leaving the army, he played professional football in Hawaii and baseball with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League, where he drew the attention of the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey. The Dodgers signed Robinson to a minor league contract in 1945.
Robinson broke the baseball color line when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era. Robinson thrived as a player despite death threats, hatred, and Jim Crow segregation in many cities. During his 10-year MLB career, Robinson won the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, was an All-Star for six consecutive seasons from 1949 through 1954, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949—the first black player to win. Robinson led the Dodgers to six National League championships and the 1955 World Series title. He retired from baseball in 1956.
Robinson became the first Black player inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. He was heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, acting as a spokesman for the NAACP. Robinson was also the first Black television analyst for MLB and the first Black vice president of a major American corporation, Chock full o’Nuts. In the 1960s, he helped establish the Freedom National Bank, an African-American-owned financial institution based in Harlem, New York.
Jackie Robinson died on October 24, 1972, in Stamford, Connecticut, and is buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. After his death, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his achievements on and off the field.
In 1997, on the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s historic entry into the major leagues, MLB retired his uniform number 42 across all major league teams; he was the first professional athlete in any sport to be honored in this way. MLB also adopted a new annual tradition, “Jackie Robinson Day,” for the first time on April 15, 2004, for which every player on every team wears number 42.
Major League Baseball established the Jackie Robinson Fund at the Georgia Historical Society in 2021.