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From the Publisher
The extraordinary life of Jackie Robinson is illuminated as never
before in this full-scale biography by Arnold Rampersad, who was
chosen by Jack''s widow, Rachel, to tell her husband''s story, and
was given unprecedented access to his private papers. We are
brought closer than we have ever been to the great ballplayer, a
man of courage and quality who became a pivotal figure in the areas
of race and civil rights.
Born in the rural South, the son of a sharecropper, Robinson was
reared in southern California. We see him blossom there as a
student-athlete as he struggled against poverty and racism to
uphold the beliefs instilled in him by his mother--faith in family,
education, America, and God.
We follow Robinson through World War II, when, in the first wave of
racial integration in the armed forces, he was commissioned as an
officer, then court-martialed after refusing to move to the back of
a bus. After he plays in the Negro National League, we watch the
opening of an all-American drama as, late in 1945, Branch Rickey of
the Brooklyn Dodgers recognized Jack as the right player to break
baseball''s color barrier--and the game was forever changed.
Jack''s never-before-published letters open up his relationship
with his family, especially his wife, Rachel, whom he married just
as his perilous venture of integrating baseball began. Her memories
are a major resource of the narrative as we learn about the severe
harassment Robinson endured from teammates and opponents alike;
about death threats and exclusion; about joy and remarkable
success. We watch his courageous response to abuse, first as a
stoic endurer, then as a fighter who epitomized courage and
We see his growing friendship with white players like Pee Wee Reese
and the black teammates who followed in his footsteps, and his
embrace by Brooklyn''s fans. We follow his blazing career: 1947,
Rookie of the Year; 1949, Most Valuable Player; six pennants in ten
seasons, and 1962, induction into the Hall of Fame.
But sports were merely one aspect of his life. We see his business
ventures, his leading role in the community, his early support of
Martin Luther King Jr., his commitment to the civil rights movement
at a crucial stage in its evolution; his controversial associations
with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Humphrey, Goldwater, Nelson
Rockefeller, and Malcolm X.
Rampersad''s magnificent biography leaves us with an indelible
image of a principled man who was passionate in his loyalties and
opinions: a baseball player who could focus a crowd''s attention as
no one before or since; an activist at the crossroads of his
people''s struggle; a dedicated family man whose last years were
plagued by illness and tragedy, and who died prematurely at
fifty-two. He was a pathfinder, an American hero, and he now has
the biography he deserves.
From the Hardcover edition.