Jackie Robinson: A True American Hero

American baseball player Jackie Robinson, who died in 1972, is pictured during his time with the Brooklyn Dodgers in August 1949. i i

American baseball player Jackie Robinson, who died in 1972, is pictured during his time with the Brooklyn Dodgers in August 1949. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Hulton Archive/Getty Images
American baseball player Jackie Robinson, who died in 1972, is pictured during his time with the Brooklyn Dodgers in August 1949.

American baseball player Jackie Robinson, who died in 1972, is pictured during his time with the Brooklyn Dodgers in August 1949.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

February is Black History Month and Tell Me More observes the month with a series of short vignettes. In this installment, NPR host Scott Simon shares his black history hero.

I'm Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition, Saturday. And my black history hero is Jackie Robinson. I even wrote a book about him.

He was an athlete who earned a place, not only in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but history. He's the only athlete who truly deserves to be hailed by that overworked word: hero.

It's hard for us to appreciate today what courage it took Jackie Robinson just to walk onto a major league baseball diamond in 1947 under a storm of insults and threats. And so 15 years later, when civil rights marchers walked across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, under a hail of teargas and police batons, they had the image of Jackie Robinson to put steel in their hearts - a proud man walking unbent and unflinchingly into adversity.

Jackie Robinson was a jock, not some kind of Mahatma Gandhi in cleats. But he grew to know how much his story meant to so many.

And when he could no longer perform nobly and superbly on the baseball field, he didn't become a hollering head sports pundit or do beer ads.

He became a community leader and social activist.

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