Jackie Robinson
A Life in American History
by Courtney Michelle Smith
March 2021, 252pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-7268-6
$69, £54, 60€, A95
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7269-3
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Jackie Robinson ranks as the only player to have his number retired by every team in Major League Baseball and the only player to have an annual day devoted to his legacy.

Jackie Robinson: A Life in American History provides readers with an understanding of the scope of Robinson's life and explores why no Major League Baseball player will ever again wear number 42 as his regular jersey number.

This book captures Robinson’s lifetime, from 1919 to 1972, while focusing on his connections to the unresolved promise of the Reconstruction Era and to the civil rights movement of the 20th century. In addition to covering Robinson’s athletic career with the UCLA Bruins, the Kansas City Monarchs, the Montreal Royals, and the Brooklyn Dodgers, the book explores sociopolitical elements to situate Robinson’s story and impact within the broader context of United States history. The book makes deliberate connections among the failure of Reconstruction, the creation of the Negro Leagues, the rise and decline of legalized segregation in the United States, the progress of the civil rights movement, and Robinson’s life.

Chronological chapters begin with Robinson’s life before he played professional baseball, continue with an exploration of the Negro Leagues and Robinson’s career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and conclude with an examination of Robinson’s post-retirement life as well as his influence on civil rights. Supplemental materials including document excerpts give readers an opportunity to explore contemporary accounts of Robinson’s career and impact.


  • Provides readers with insight into the ways the unfulfilled promise of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras impacted areas of life beyond politics
  • Provides readers with an understanding of how professional baseball reflects American society and vice versa
  • Informs readers that Major League baseball in the 19th century experienced a period of integration before entering a prolonged period of segregation
  • Demonstrates how the effort to reintegrate the Major Leagues was tied to World War II and to efforts to promote integration in other areas of American society
  • Shows Robinson's significance both within and outside of the world of professional baseball
Courtney Michelle Smith, PhD, is professor of history and political science at Cabrini University. She is author of Ed Bolden and Black Baseball in Philadelphia and editor of American History through Its Greatest Speeches, Volume I: The Colonial Period through the Early Republic.


"Readers interested in history, sports, and Robinson (whether as an athlete or for his work beyond baseball) will learn much from this worthwhile book."—Library Journal, August 1, 2021

"A meticulous story and concluding time line of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, Smith's efforts deserve praise for breadth, details, and seriousness of tone."—Choice, April 1, 2022

Black History Lives

This biography series explores the lives of the most iconic figures in African American history, with material that supports state standards while highlighting the subject’s significance in our contemporary world. Each volume includes a narrative of the life of each subject, a chapter on the subject’s larger cultural and historical significance, a chronology, a comprehensive bibliography, and sidebars that offer pertinent cultural connections to the worlds of social, political, intellectual, and popular culture. An appendix of primary document excerpts rounds out each volume. Readers of the Black History Lives series will gain a greater understanding of the outside events and influences that shaped each subject’s world, from familial relationships to political and cultural developments.


Series foreword Biographical narrative chapters Why X Matters chapter that explores the subject’s importance within the context of American history Timeline Bibliography Primary Source Documents “Cultural Connections” Sidebars Index
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