The History of Baseball and Civil Rights in America
Baseball remains at its core a simple game – played by millions from the youth level to the national stage.
But the convergence of the National Pastime and American culture dates back to the United States’ transition from an agrarian society to an industrialized power.
In short, a snapshot of any point in time of America’s last 150 years includes the fabric of baseball. And often, baseball was at the forefront of cultural change.
“Jackie Robinson made my success possible,” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Without him, I would never have been able to do what I did.”
The magnitude of those words cannot be overstated. Dr. King’s lasting work as a Civil Rights pioneer touched all areas of the American experience, yet he credited a baseball player with making his dream viable.
Those 19 words speak to the breadth and depth of baseball’s presence in America. The game represents the American ideal at its root: That hard work and fair play are the keys to success.
Once Robinson was allowed to demonstrate his ability in the big leagues, the doors appeared open to everyone. It was a message that only baseball – with its power to cut across cultures – could deliver.
The following timeline highlights some of American history’s watershed moments, both on and off the field, and illustrates how baseball was – and is – a part of our collective lives.