Never-before-published letters offer a rich portrait of the baseball star as a fearless advocate for racial justice at the highest levels of American politics
Jackie Robinson's courage on the baseball diamond is one of the great stories of the struggle for civil rights in America, and his Hall of Fame career speaks for itself. But we no longer hear Robinson speak for himself; his death at age fifty-three in 1972 robbed America of his voice far too soon.
In First Class Citizenship, Jackie Robinson comes alive on the page for the first time in decades. The scholar Michael G. Long has unearthed a remarkable trove of Robinson's correspondence with—and personal replies from—such towering figures as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Hubert Humphrey, Nelson Rockefeller, and Barry Goldwater. These extraordinary conversations reveal the scope and depth of Robinson's effort during the 1950s and 1960s to rid America of racism.
Writing eloquently and with evident passion, Robinson charted his own course, offering his support to Democrats and to Republicans, questioning the tactics of the civil rights movement, and challenging the nation's leaders when he felt they were guilty of hypocrisy—or worse. Through his words as well as his actions, Jackie Robinson truly personified the "first class citizenship" that he considered the birthright of all Americans, whatever their race.
Coinciding with the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's entry into major league baseball, which broke the sport's color barrier, this absorbing collection of letters reveals new facets of the icon's sometimes private nature. The correspondence ranges from 1946 to 1972, with such pen pals as Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Barry Goldwater. Among the more fascinating exchanges are Robinson's dialogues with Richard Nixon over civil rights; his conciliatory responses to damning missives from Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell accusing him of an "Uncle Tom" stance; his blistering note to Mississippi segregationist James Eastland on prejudice; and his quest to make the Republican Party color-blind with notes to Nelson Rockefeller and Goldwater. Assembled by Elizabethtown College religious studies professor Long, the letters trace Robinson's political life, seeking to rationalize the schism between his equal rights fantasies and the reality of a tarnished American dream. Fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers star will find this collection more satisfying than much other published work about him.