Civil Rights: Before You Could Say "Jackie Robinson"

In baseball — as in America — freedom is an ongoing quest. For almost 65 years, African-American players were prevented from playing Major League Baseball simply because of their skin color. In this unit, students will explore American history from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement. They will work both independently and collaboratively to learn how race relations in baseball reflected significant social and cultural developments in the United States.

Thematic Unit Objective

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Be introduced to the concept of racial segregation and understand its impact on baseball and American society.

Discuss the origins of the Negro leagues and identify famous Negro leagues players.

Analyze the importance of Jackie Robinson to baseball and to Civil Rights.

Learn about how the integration of baseball was the precursor of the modern Civil Rights movement.

"There should be some broader cause - such as lack of ability, behavior or intelligence - for barring a player, rather than his color."

Weldy W. Walker

Rookie (Grades 3-5)

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Lesson 1 (Pre-Visit): 19th Century Baseball

Students will be introduced to the concept of racial segregation and learn how it affected African Americans in baseball.

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Lesson 2 (Pre-Visit): The Negro Leagues

Students will explore the history of the Negro leagues from the 1920s through the late 1940s. They will discover that Negro leagues players endured difficult conditions in order to play the game they loved.

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Lesson 3: On-Site Visit or Video conference

Students will work with museum teachers to reinforce concepts and ideas introduced in the classroom.

Book your field trip or video conference


Lesson 4 (Post-Visit): Jackie Robinson and Integration

Students will review and reflect on the importance of Jackie Robinson's integration of Major League Baseball in 1947.

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Intermediate (Grades 6-8)

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Lesson 1 (Pre-Visit): 19th Century Baseball

Students will review legal and social barriers that affected African Americans in baseball as well as in society.

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Lesson 2 (Pre-Visit): The Negro Leagues

Students will explore the history of the Negro leagues from the 1920s through the late 1940s.

Download Full Lesson Plan


Lesson 3 (Pre-Visit): Jackie Robinson and Integration

Students examine the role of Jackie Robinson in the integration of Major League Baseball in 1947.

Download Full Lesson Plan

Lesson 4: On-Site Visit or Video conference

Students will work with museum teachers to reinforce concepts and ideas introduced in the classroom.

Book your field trip or video conference


Lesson 5: (Post-Visit): Baseball After Jackie

Students will review and reflect on the importance of Jackie Robinson's role in the integration of baseball.

Download Full Lesson Plan

Advanced (Grades 9-12)

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Lesson 1 (Pre-Visit): 19th Century Baseball

Students will review legal and social barriers that affected African Americans in baseball as well as in society during the post-Civil War era.

Download Full Lesson Plan


Lesson 2 (Pre-Visit): The Negro Leagues

Students will explore the history of the Negro leagues from the 1920s through the late 1940s.

Download Full Lesson Plan


Lesson 3 (Pre-Visit): Jackie Robinson and Integration

Students will examine the role of Jackie Robinson in the integration of Major League Baseball.

Download Full Lesson Plan


Lesson 4: On-Site Visit or Video conference

Students will work with museum teachers to reinforce concepts and ideas introduced in the classroom.

Book your field trip or video conference


Lesson 5 (Post-Visit): Baseball After Jackie: Ongoing Issues of Equality

Students will review and reflect on their learning experience with the Baseball Hall of Fame as they consider the legacy of Jackie Robinson and ongoing issues of race in Major League Baseball.

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Common Core Standards

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CCSS ELA CONTENT: RL.3.1/4.1/5.1, RL.3.3/4.3/5.3, RL.3.4/4.4/5.4, SL.3.1/4.1/5.1, SL.3.2/4.2/5.2