Not Guilty

Updated: September 21, 2007



Jackie Robinson was

truly Larger than Life

in every way too bad

more Black athletes aren’t

or Sports in America would be

very different today

far far better

One episode in Jackie Robinson’s life not unknown but certainly little known is gaining more attention now with the renewed focus on World War II engendered by the much publicized new documentary series by Ken Burns about the War to End All Wars that begins airing on Public Television Sunday.

Robinson’s World War II saga is Sports in that everything about him made him made him the Most Important Athlete in American History and a such he has things to teach us generation after generation most of all African Americans about asserting themselves in Sports and Life and continuing to battle the discrimination that continues to Plaque America witness Jena, Louisiana this week.

Let’s set the Stage …….

To no ones surprise today African Americans who enlisted in large numbers to defend THEIR country in World War II faced bigotry and discrimination at every turn even in the face of government and military regulations that supposedly prevented it. Not only were most Black Americans segregated in “special units” and assigned some of the worst and most dangerous missions but fellow White soldiers who they were risking their lives for, most but not all of them Southerners, treated Black soldiers with derision and contempt.

Enter Jackie Robinson …..

After starring in athletics at UCLA and leaving short of graduation to join the U.S military in 1942 to do his part in the War effort, Robinson was rejected for officer training school. Undaunted he applied again until he was finally accepted and then commissioned as Army Second Lieutenant Robinson.

During further training at Fort Hood, Texas, as a member of what would become the first Black tank unit to see combat the 761st Black Panthers Tank Battalion, July 6, 1944, upon entering a civilian bus on base the White driver ordered Second Lieut. Robinson to the back of the bus which he refused.

The driver refused to proceed and went to get an Officer who also ordered Robinson to the back and he continued to refuse. Robinson was then arrested by MPs, taken to the Brig and Court Marshal charges against him prepared even though military regulations supposedly prevented such discrimination.

When Robinson’s commanding officer :Lt. Col. Paul Bates refused to proceed with the Court Marshal, the base commanded over-ruled him and Robinson was transferred to another unit, whose commander signed the Court Marshall. Robinson’s trial began August 2, 1944, and went on for 17 long days.

Here is one telling description of the proceedings …..

. ” Robinson was charged with violating the 63rd and 64th Articles of War. The first charge specified, “Lieutenant Robinson behaved with disrespect toward Captain Gerald M. Bear, Corps Military Police, by contemptuously bowing to him and giving several sloppy salutes while repeating, Okay Sir, Okay Sir, in an insolent, impertinent and rude manner.” The second charge stipulated, “Lieutenant Robinson having received a lawful command by Captain Bear to remain in a receiving room at the MP station disobeyed such order.”

Robinson was acquitted by an all white military jury 6-0

But within the Army and especially among the Brass he now had a “reputation” as a Racial Agitator. More than anything else Robinson now had the potential to become the Hero of All African Americans throughout the U.S. Military and beyond so he was given an Honorable Discharge shortly after paving the way for him to sign with the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs and …….

the rest is History

Jackie Robinson is

American History

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