Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Major League Baseball

William Rubinstein looks at a turning point in America’s national sport.

Baseball has been repeatedly cited as crucial to understanding much of American society. ‘Whoever would understand the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game’, Jacques Barzun once wrote. For Mark Twain, more than a century ago, baseball, whose rules were codified in the 1840s, ‘is the very symbol, the outward and visible experience of the drive and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming nineteenth century’, and this remained true for most of the twentieth century as well. What is less familiar is the role of baseball in the achievement of black equality in America; how the integration of Major League baseball in 1945-47 set the stage for the legal and political landmarks of the Civil Rights movement which was to follow.

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