Author: David A. Adler
Illustrator: Robert Casilla
Grade Level: 2 -4
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Through the popular culture of sport, Jackie Robinson and the Story of All-Black Baseball, connects with all students no matter how much interest they have in baseball. It does an excellent job of depicting the conditions in which not only Jackie Robinson, but all black baseball players endured prior to the year 1947 (and unfortunately for some time after this date). Young readers will grasp the magnitude of why Jackie Robinson crossing the color line was such a huge milestone that opened the door for other black baseball players to play in the Major Leagues. What students might be surprised to learn is that these men were intentionally harmed on the field of play by white players, and that in the time leading up to Jackie Robinson becoming the first black major leaguer, he was receiving death threats. He was receiving letters that threatened to beat up his wife and letters that threatened to kidnap his baby son. Jackie Robinson and the Story of All-Black Baseball will give students a glimpse into how the game of baseball has transcended into the game it is today. One that not only includes white players, but includes black players, Hispanic players, Japanese players, and other minority-players too.
Element 3 - Exploring Issues of Social Justice:
Jackie Robinson and the Story of All-Black Baseball represents element three through its telling of how cruel, unjust, examples of bigotry and racism stymied the advancement of black baseball players throughout history. Taking students back to the years following the civil war when baseball players began to get paid to play on teams, the book explains how black men, who were every bit as equal to white men, were cut from teams simply because of the color of their skin. Enduring malicious acts such as white players deliberately hurting them with their spikes, hotels closing their doors to them, and other acts of discrimination, was the norm in those days. Taking the time to depict the landscape of the sport of baseball in America prior to Jackie Robinson crossing the color line helps young students to understand the context in which his courageous accomplishment took place.
Prior to reading Jackie Robinson and the Story of All-Black Baseball, have your students explore their similarities and differences. First, pair your students up and let them go wherever they please (i.e. on the carpet, at a table, or at one of their desks). This will build a comfortable classroom environment. Next, have them talk and find out two or three things that are the same between each other, and two or three things that are different about each other. After about ten minutes reassemble the class and have the students share their findings. By doing this, before reading the book, they will be able to identify with black baseball players and the grotesque acts of racism they endured simply because their skin was the "wrong" color.