Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972) was an American baseball player who became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era.
Robinson broke the baseball color line when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947. As the first major league team to play a black man since the 1880s, the Dodgers ended racial segregation that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues for six decades. The example of Robinson’s character, his use of nonviolence, and his unquestionable talent challenged the traditional basis of segregation, which then marked many other aspects of American life, and contributed significantly to the Civil Rights Movement.
In addition to his cultural impact, Robinson had an exceptional baseball career. Over 10 seasons, Robinson played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers’ 1955 World Series championship. He was selected for six consecutive All-Star Games, from 1949 to 1954, was the recipient of the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949—the first black player so honored. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1997, MLB “universally” retired his uniform number, 42, across all major league teams; he was the first pro athlete in any sport to be so honored. Initiated for the first time on April 15, 2004, MLB has adopted a new annual tradition, “Jackie Robinson Day”, on which every player on every team wears #42.
Robinson was also known for his pursuits outside the baseball diamond. He was the first black television analyst in 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. In recognition of his achievements on and off the field, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.