1958 May 13

Jackie Robinson Denounces President Eisenhower’s Weak Leadership on Civil Rights


Baseball great Jackie Robinson, who integrated major league baseball on April 15, 1947, wrote a letter to President Dwight Eisenhower criticizing his failure to vigorously support civil rights. Robinson was a Republican, and was generally non-political in public, so his comments were widely regarded as a significant event.

Robinson to Eisenhower (excerpt): “I respectfully remind you sir, that we have been the most patient of all people. When you said we must have self-respect, I wondered how we could have self-respect and remain patient considering the treatment accorded us through the years.  

“17 million Negroes cannot do as you suggest and wait for the hearts of men to change. We want to enjoy now the rights that we feel we are entitled to as Americans. This we cannot do unless we pursue aggressively goals which all other Americans acheived over 150 years ago.

“As the chief executive of our nation, I respectfully suggest that you unwittingly crush the spirit of freedom in Negroes by constantly urging forbearance and give hope to those prosegregation leaders like Governor Faubus who would take from us even those freedoms we now enjoy. Your own experience with Governor Faubus is proof enough that forbearance and not eventual integration is the goal the pro-segregation leaders seek.”

Read Jackie Robinson’s complete letter: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/jackie_robinson_letter/

Read more of his correspondence: Michael G. Long, ed., First Class Citizenship: The Civil Rights Letters of Jackie Robinson (2007)

Read: Arnold Rampersad, Jackie Robinson: A Biography (1997)

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