Jackie Robinson: Paving the Way Forward
As one of the first and most visible institutions to accept African Americans on relative terms of equality, baseball became viewed as a model for the nation—providing a blueprint for future widespread integration.
An outstanding baseball player, Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball April 15, 1947, with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York, wearing the number “42.”
His major league debut played a pivotal role in how the nation would respond to integrating teams. In doing so, he became the biggest name in baseball since Babe Ruth and won Rookie of the Year. His success had ramifications far beyond the playing field as many African American leaders saw the “noble experiment” as a model for widespread integration.
To commemorate the historic moment of Major League Baseball integrating 75 years ago, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has placed Robinson's road jersey from the 1951 baseball season on view in the museum’s “Sports: Leveling the Playing Field” gallery until May 1.
He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. After Robinson’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame,1962
Beyond the Playing Field
Discover images of Jackie Robinson's life off the field from the Johnson Publishing Company Archive. Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Smithsonian Institution.
A Closer Look
Sports Curator Damion Thomas discusses Jackie Robinson’s life and legacy in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Robinson’s debut and integration of Major League Baseball.
Explore the Collection
Presented with special thanks to our Sports Leadership Council, including:
The Brooklyn Nets and the New York Liberty Foundation
Robert K. Kraft Family and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation
Spurs Sports & Entertainment
The Washington Commanders