4. Segregation in Baseball
Jackie Robinson’s arrival in the major leagues marked the end of segregation in baseball, but two documents in this collection demonstrate the impact of the racial policy and its lasting effect. In 1953, Jackie Robinson served as the editor for Our Sports magazine. This short-lived periodical focused on African Americans as athletes and fans. The subscription page on the inside cover advertised its coverage of "famous Negro athletes in every field of endeavor" and "Negro athletes in your town among your own neighbors," while the table of contents from the second issue of Our Sports featured articles such as "What White Big Leaguers Really Think of Negroes" and "My Toughest Fight," a piece by boxer Joe Louis about segregation on the golf course.
- Why was Jackie Robinson an ideal editor for Our Sports magazine?
- Who was the target audience for the magazine?
- Are there limitations to presenting sporting news in terms of race?
A year later, a Negro League game program featured "The Charleston Story", a short biography of Oscar Charleston, manager of the Indianapolis Clowns and one of the greatest Negro League players of all time. Charleston played and managed in the league from 1915 to 1954. The biography explains that it was at the peak of his career, in the mid-1920s, that Charleston began to consider managing: "His accomplishments became a matter of record and he’d gone as far as he could as a Negro. The majors wouldn’t accept him. . . . "
- What is the tone of Charleston’s biography? How does it reflect the effect of segregation?
- Why is this biography included in the program? How might a fan attending a Negro League game react to the piece?
- How do Our Sports magazine and the Charleston biography address racial attitudes of that time?
- How do they relate to the civil rights movements that would begin a few years later?