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Jackie Robinson - Born To A Sharecropper

california family street children

Robinson, the grandson of a slave, was born on a plantation shack in Cairo, Georgia. He was the youngest of five children born to Mallie and Jerry Robinson. Just months after Robinson's birth, his father, a sharecropper, ran off with a neighbor's wife, and the plantation owner ordered the Robinsons off the land. Seeking a better life for her children, Mallie Robinson moved the family to California, where her brother, Burton McGriff, lived.

Mallie Robinson found work washing and ironing and by 1923 had purchased a house in Pasadena, on Pepper Street. As the only black family on the street, the Robinson children were singled out as troublemakers. Neighbors filed false reports with the police claiming the boys were throwing rocks and vandalizing the area. Soon, the neighborhood united to buy them out. However, when some key wealthy families refused to support the plan, instead favoring the Robinsons' right to live there, the rest of the neighbors gave up, and the family stayed.

As he grew up amid poverty and racial prejudice, Robinson learned he could gain acceptance with his athleticism. In grammar school, kids would share their lunches with Robinson if he agreed to join their team. Robinson found that at least on the playing field, white students counted him as their equal.

During his childhood, Robinson befriended an interracial group called the Pepper Street Gang, which consisted of poor black, Japanese, Mexican, and caucasian boys. They roamed the streets challenging more affluent, mostly white boys to football matches, or other sports, betting modest amounts of money they'd win. Robinson sharpened his skills on the streets, then put them to use at John Muir Technical High, where he starred on the baseball, football, basketball, and track teams.

Chronology

1919 Born January 31 in Cairo, Georgia
1920 Relocates to California with mother and siblings
1937 Graduates from John Muir Technical High School and enters Pasadena Junior College
1939 Enters the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)
1941 Leaves UCLA a few credits shy of his degree
1942 Joins U.S. Army
1944 Receives honorable discharge from Army
1945 Plays for the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs; signs to play with the Montreal Royals, an all-white Brooklyn Dodgers-affiliated farm team
1946 Marries Rachel Isum in February; debuts with Montreal Royals in April
1947 Breaks major league baseball's 20th century color line by taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15
1956 Plays last season of baseball; joins Chock Full O' Nuts restaurant chain as vice president
1963 Marches with Martin Luther King in Birmingham, Alabama
1972 Dies October 24 in Stamford, Connecticut
Jackie Robinson - Chronology [next]

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