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    SUBJECTS — Biography; Sports/Baseball; U.S./ 1945 - 1991 & Diversity;
    MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness; Respect; Citizenship.

    Age: 8+; No MPAA Rating; Drama; 1950; 76 minutes; B & W; Available from Amazon.com.

    Description:     This is a film biography of Jackie Robinson, the first black man permitted to play major league baseball. Jackie Robinson portrays himself in the movie.

    Benefits of the Movie:     This film describes some of the difficulties encountered by Robinson as he broke the color line in the big leagues. It is especially useful to supplement courses in modern U.S. history for students with a strong interest in sports.

    Possible Problems:    None.

    Parenting Points:     Tell your child about the self-control that Jackie Robinson had to exhibit in the early years and some of his achievements after he stopped playing baseball. See the Helpful Background section. Then ask and help your child to answer the Quick Discussion Question.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      Selected Awards:  None.

      Featured Actors:  Jackie Robinson, Ruby Dee, Minor Watson, Louise Beavers, Richard Lane, Harry Shannon, Billy Wayne, Joel Fluellen, Ben Lessy.

      Director:  Alfred E. Green



Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.

    Helpful Background:

    The life of Jack Roosevelt Robinson (1919 - 1972) spans a period of great achievement for black Americans. From the time Robinson was born, through the 1940s, opportunities for blacks in business, the professions, and sports were limited. By the end of his life, equal opportunity was the law of the land and major league sports were open to black Americans. Jackie Robinson played a leading role in that change.

    Born in Cairo, Georgia, Robinson grew up in Pasadena, California. He was a sports star at UCLA where he went to college, lettering in football, baseball, basketball and track. When he graduated, he was widely regarded as the finest all-around athlete in the United States. Yet, big league sports weren't open to him.

    Robinson served three years in the U.S. Army during WWII. The Army was segregated at the time and Robinson protested discriminatory treatment of black soldiers. On one occasion he refused to move to the back of a bus when ordered to do so by a driver. For this he was court-martialed but the trial ended in an acquittal. Robinson was honorably discharged from the Army in 1944 with the rank of first lieutenant.

    In 1945, Robinson broke the color bar against blacks in baseball by signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. He spent the 1946 season with its farm club, the Montreal Royals. In 1947, with the support of Branch Rickey, the legendary manager of the Dodgers, Robinson began playing with the Dodgers. During his first year in the majors, Robinson batted .297 with 125 runs scored and twenty-nine stolen bases. The Dodgers won the pennant and Robinson won the Rookie of the Year award.

    Robinson knew that the first several years in the majors would be tough. Branch Rickey told him he'd have to turn the other cheek and not fight back for at least three years. His white teammates got up a petition to keep him off the team. Pitchers threw at him. Base runners dug their spikes into his shin. "Fans" yelled racial epithets and asked him to carry their bags and shine their shoes. Others threw trash, tomatoes, rocks, watermelon slices, and Sambo dolls at him. But Robinson persevered. In 1949, he was selected as the most valuable player in baseball. His lifetime batting average was .311 and he was a daring base runner. Robinson retired in 1957 after helping the Dodgers with six pennants and one World Series. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

    These were not all of Robinson's contributions to baseball. He inspired a generation of black ball players: Hank Aaron, Roy Campanella, Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson and others. Listening to Robinson's speeches and following in his footsteps, they played as if they were on a mission. Nor did Robinson complaisantly accept the role that the major leagues had set out for him. He pushed an often reluctant sport for more opportunities for blacks. Hank Aaron notes that Robinson "campaigned for baseball to hire a black third-base coach, then a black manager. In 1969 he refused an invitation to play in an old-timers' game at Yankee Stadium to protest the lack of progress along those lines." Time Article: Jackie Robinson He thrilled fans, shattered baseball's color barrier and changed the face of the nation, written by Henry Aaron.

    All of this would have been more than enough for one man, but Jackie Robinson wasn't just a baseball player. When he retired from baseball he went into business, becoming a Vice President of Chock Full O' Nuts, a national coffee and restaurant chain. Later he co-founded Freedom National Bank of Harlem serving as Chairman of its Board from 1964 to 1972. 1970 saw the organization of the Jackie Robinson Construction Corporation. Robinson's efforts in banking and construction were aimed toward improving living conditions for black Americans, especially those living in the major metropolitan areas.

    Throughout his career in business and in sports, Robinson supported the struggle for civil rights. He traveled extensively to raise funds for the NAACP and developed close relationships with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as other prominent civil rights and political leaders. Recognizing the strong support that the American Jewish community had given to the Civil Rights Movement and the fact that respect for one minority leads to respect for all minorities, Robinson also supported the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith. In 1956, the NAACP awarded Robinson its highest award for achievement by an African American, the prestigious Spingarn Medal.

    What was Jackie Robinson's unique contribution? After all, Joe Louis, the boxing heavyweight champion had shown that a black man could defeat whites. There are several good answers. Here are two. Jackie Robinson not only showed the blacks could compete against whites, he showed that they could compete with whites, together on the same team. In addition, by answering the epithets and trash hurled at him with dignity and kindness, he showed how mean-spirited and disgusting racism was.

    Robinson died in 1972, having helped to change his country for the better and leaving a rich legacy for us all.

    Jackie Robinson and Family


    A most interesting perspective and a fascinating vignette about the integration of baseball are summarized at Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball -- New Book Chronicles Breaking of the Major League Color Barrier an interview with Scott Simon, author of Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball.
    "The Yankees were winning year after year after year and the largest source of unscouted baseball talent were the Negro Leagues, ... There was always the feeling that the baseball owner or general manager who had the nerve to bring in top Negro League stars could win a few pennants.

    Rickey considered other players from the Negro Leagues. Satchel Page, the biggest draw and highest-paid player in baseball at the time, was considered too old, ... Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella could have come in at the same time as Robinson.

    "But Rickey was convinced that the team would rally behind a single African-American ballplayer who would have the nerve and the gumption to stand the gaff. ...

    When Rickey brought Robinson into his office in 1945, he had to see whether Robinson could stand up to the inevitable taunts, pressure and death threats that would come. Rickey played the role of "every foul-mouth, low-life, bigoted rube that he had ever half overheard at a sporting event..." He got in Robinson's face and took a swing at him, but missed.

    "But Branch Rickey made his point: 'You're going to have to put up with this kind of talk.' And Jackie Robinson said, 'Well, Mr. Rickey, do you want a player who doesn't have the guts to fight back?' And that's when Branch Rickey delivered his greatest line: 'Jackie, how about a ballplayer with the guts not to fight back?'"
    Simon says Rickey "took Robinson, who was one of the most intensely competitive human beings imaginable, and he made the measure of his success having the courage not to fight back."

    Robinson in the uniform of the Kansas
    City franchise of the Negro League

    Branch Rickey (1881 - 1965) was a baseball executive who established the farm system in which major league clubs owned minor league operations. Farm teams (also called minor league teams) were used to train promising young players. In 1945, when Rickey was general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, he hired Jackie Robinson.

    Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, established the Jackie Robinson Foundation in 1973. The foundation awards students of color four year academic scholarships to colleges.
  QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   Do you think that Jackie Robinson was a male role model? What did Jackie Robinson do other than break baseball's color bar that justifies holding him up as a male role model?

Suggested Response: When he was in the army, Jackie Robinson protested discriminatory treatment of black soldiers. He also supported various civic causes after he retired and went into business. He was a star athlete and he kept his temper and his cool when taunted by persons trying to spoil his work as a major league ball player.

BUILDING VOCABULARY: "color line," discrimination, segregation.

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Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!

Click on the link for a discussion of Segregation and Its Corrosive Effects in the Learning Guide to "A Force More Powerful".

For suggestions about using filmed adaptations of literary works in the ELA classroom, see Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories and Plays.


    Discussion Questions:

    1.  See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

    2.  Why did it take so long for black baseball players to be accepted in the major leagues?

    3.  What was Jackie Robinson's unique contribution to the United States? After all, Joe Louis, the boxing heavyweight champion, had shown that blacks could win against whites.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

For suggested answers:    click here.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    See Quick Discussion Question.

    1.  What did Jackie Robinson achieve in his life other than break baseball's color bar that justifies holding him up as a male role model?

    2.  The Brooklyn Dodgers had an economic and competitive incentive to break the color bar in National League baseball. What was it?

    3.  How did Branch Rickey motivate Robinson, a very competitive man who stood up for his rights, to turn the other cheek against all of the racist insults and assaults that he had to endure?

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

For suggested answers:    click here.

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    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)

    1.  If you were asked to be the first black person to integrate the major leagues, or the first black child to integrate a school, would you do it, or would you let someone else go first? Explain why.


    (Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act -- consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)

    2.  How did Jackie Robinson react during the early years of his major league career when racists taunted him?

    3.  Jackie Robinson broke into the major leagues at age 28. There were many years in which his play was major league quality but the "color line" prevented him from playing in the major leagues. What element of the Responsibility Pillar of Character did he demonstrate in those years?


    (Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)

    4.  How did Jackie Robinson help his country?

    (For additional questions, see the "Trustworthiness" category above.)

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

For suggested answers:    click here.

    Bridges to Reading: Books recommended for middle school and junior high readers include: The Story of Negro League Baseball by William Brashler; Black, Diamond: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues by Patricia C. McKissack; Jackie Robinson by Mandfred Weidhorn; In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord, illustrated by Marc Simont; Thank You, Jackie Robinson by Barbara Cohen, illustrated by Richard Cuffari.

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: See the Sports/Baseball section of the Subject Matter Index. For a description of the role played by Robinson in the integration of Major League baseball, see Baseball, Inning 6.

  PHOTOGRAPHS, DIAGRAMS AND OTHER VISUALS:  Baseball and Jackie Robinson article from the Library of Congress. See also Photographs of Signs Enforcing Racial Discrimination: Documentation by Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Photographers from the Library of Congress.

    Bibliography: None.

    Last updated April 8, 2010.

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