- Historic Sites
The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson
He was a lieutenant in the Army of the United States: he saw no reason to sit in the back of the bus
August/september 1984 | Volume 35, Issue 5
Robinson’s Army experiences had taken their toll on his patriotic fervor.
Even Robinson could not have realized how high the personal stakes were when he refused to move to the back of the bus in 1944. Had he been convicted of the more serious charges and, as he feared, dishonorably discharged, it is doubtful that Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn National League Club, would have chosen him to integrate organized baseball in 1946. In the climate of postwar America, a black man banished from the Army could have found little popular support. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Robinson, who was already twenty-eight years old when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, might never have made it to the major leagues had he been forced to wait for another man to act as trailblazer. Fortunately, his defiance had precisely the opposite effect. His Army experiences, which graphically illustrated the black man’s lot in America, also demonstrated Jackie Robinson’s courage and pride. These were the very qualities that would prove essential in making the assault on baseball’s color line.