Detail of photo of Jackie Robinson on opening day.

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. 

Read Story about Jackie Robinson: Paving the Way Forward

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.  

Jackie Robinson dressed in a road uniform, crouches by the base and prepares to catch a ball, 1951.

Jackie Robinson (1919 - 1972) of the Brooklyn Dodgers, dressed in a road uniform, crouches by the base and prepares to catch a ball, 1951. Throughout the course of his baseball career Robinson played several positions on the infield as well as serving as outfielder. 

Getty Images
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.

black and white image of Jackie Robinson with his three children in their home

Baseball giant Jackie Robinson, is pictured spending some one-on-one time with his three children and wife in their home.

Jackie Robinson and brother Mack Robinson are pictured with their mother and Jackie's mother-in-law

Jackie Robinson and brother Mack Robinson are pictured with their mother and Jackie's mother-in-law.

Black and white image of Jackie Robinson is pictured chatting with Rep. Charles C. Diggs Jr.

Jackie Robinson is pictured chatting with Rep. Charles C. Diggs Jr.

black and white image Featured in EBONY August 1958, issue of David Jett joyfully cuts baseball great Jackie Robinson's hair.

Featured in EBONY August 1958, issue David Jett joyfully cuts baseball great Jackie Robinson's hair.

black and white image of Jackie Robinson as he arrives for Adam Clayton Powell Jr. funeral

Baseball great Jackie Robinson is ushered through barriers as he arrives for Adam Clayton Powell Jr. funeral at Abyssinian Baptist Church. He was among 5000 persons invited to attend the service inside the sanctuary.

Black and white image Featured in the EBONY August 1958, Jackie Robinson shares a kiss with wife Rachel Robinson

Featured in the EBONY August 1958, Jackie Robinson shares a kiss with wife Rachel Robinson.

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

View signature objects from the museum's collection in honor of Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson jersey from the 1951 baseball season

On loan from Anonymous Lender
View Objects about Jackie Robinson jersey from the 1951 baseball season

Jackie Robinson jersey from the 1951 baseball season

On loan from Anonymous Lender
View Objects about Jackie Robinson jersey from the 1951 baseball season

Jackie Robinson jersey from the 1951 baseball season

On loan from Anonymous Lender
View Objects about Jackie Robinson jersey from the 1951 baseball season

Jackie Robinson jersey from the 1951 baseball season

On loan from Anonymous Lender
View Objects about Jackie Robinson jersey from the 1951 baseball season

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

Share this page