Breaking Baseball’s Color Barrier

Essential Question: How do we evaluate the impact that Jackie Robinson had on racial segregation by breaking baseball’s color barrier.

Historical Context

Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in the Major Leagues on April 15, 1947, when he suited up in competition as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Up until the point that Robinson took the field that day, it had been 50 years that Major League hadn’t had a single person of color on one of their teams. Not only did Robinson taking the field that day open up an invitation for colored players to be included in baseball, but also opened up an invitation for Jackie to receive insults and other threats/comments from other players, teams, and fans alike. It is the noble and honorable way in which Jackie handled this that is a big reason we as Americans honor him today.

Jackie Robinson in his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform (Link)

The greatness about Robinson’s story is the fact that it doesn’t nearly begin and end that April day in 1947 when he took the field. He would become a person who’s legacy reflected a life-long journey of activism.

Jackie went on to attend UCLA where he earned the achievement of being the first athlete, no matter of race, white or black, to letter in 4 different sports (track and field, football, basketball, and baseball). While in school, Robinson did amazing in the classroom and demonstrated great character. A couple years after college, he was drafted in the United States Army. As a result of his qualities and achievements above, Robinson should have been a no doubt recipient for Officers Candidate School in the army, but his color of skin denied him and others of the same race. Not deterred, Jackie would turn towards a friend of his and heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, who was at the same Fort Robinson was applying to, and within a few weeks, with the help of Lewis and the determination of Robinson, the other candidates of color and Jackie got into Officers Candidate School.

When Jackie was discharged from the army, he went on to go back to playing baseball, signing with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League, a baseball league of all colored players in which they were allowed to play. It was at this time, that the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a fellow by the name of Branch Rickey, had heard of Jackie and who he was and decided he would make Jackie the one to break the baseball color barrier.

While becoming the first African American player in the majors could have been his legacy on its own, Robinson made sure that he wasn’t just a name in a box score that one time in 1947. He starred for the Dodgers, winning the 1947 Rookie of the Year Award, helping Brooklyn reach the World Series (they lost to the New York Yankees). That year, as per an agreement with Rickey, he also learned how to fight back without fighting. Rather than react to the constant racial abuse from fans and other teams alike, Jackie used unfathomable restraint and poise, turning the other cheek so as not to give his detractors any reason to end Rickey’s “experiment.”

When Jackie made it to the big leagues, it would have been a big enough story as it is on its own that he was the one to break the color barrier. Jackie made sure that his story didn’t end only with that. He won the 1947 rookie of the year award, given to the top new player in baseball, and he helped the Dodgers make the World Series. He would go on to have a hall of fame career.

Historian’s Process

Image result for american racial segregation
A girl at a colored people designated water fountain (Link)

This site gives you the chance to “be the historian.” As you analyze each document, take into account both the sources of the documents and the point of view that’s expressed

  • Who created the document
  • What was the creator’s goal
  • How does the document reflect the views and opinions of the time period
  • How does multiple documents support or contradict one another?

Use these guiding questions to stop and think more deeply about each document:

  • How did Jackie Robinson help to improve the lives of other Americans not only during his time but for people today?
  • What does this document tell me about the American racial segregation during this time period of Jackie’s life
  • Take a position on these questions presented with the documents and defend it with evidence from the documents and your understanding of contemporary America

(1) When Robinson is Called Out

According to the writer of this Editorial, what is it that Jackie Robinson exemplifies that needs to be followed? Why might this be important

An editorial written in the Jackson Advocate

(2) Jackie Meets Detroit Mayor Candidates

How do you think having this photo taken of them with Jackie Robinson could either help or hurt the candidates for mayor at the time?

Photos taken with a caption in the Detroit Tribune

(3) Jackie getting Interviewed by Reporters

In this transcript of this interview with Jackie Robinson, he compares players from the South all of a sudden having to be on his side to his him having to root for his college rival, University of Southern California. Think about an example of this that would relate to your life? What would be difficult or awkward about this?

A Transcript of an interview done with Jackie Robinson posted by The Library of Congress

(4)“The Jackie Robinson Story”

How does this article show the great progress and change of perception from 1947, when Jackie first broke the color barrier, to June of 1950, when this article was published?

A Story about “The Jackie Robinson Story” a new film, from The Evening Star

Jackie Robinson, Civil Rights Advocate

(5) Letter to the President

According to Jackie, What is his main concern/desire he wants from the president and what specific events/happenings cause this concern?

MAY 13, 1958 

The Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that States must integrate their public schools, but few began to do so voluntarily. Although Arkansas had begun desegregation elsewhere in its school system, in September 1957 Governor Orval Faubus, hoping to gain political favor, used National Guardsmen to block entry of nine black students who were supposed to attend Little Rock’s Central High School that school term. Faubus alleged that without such action, violence would have erupted.When President Eisenhower reluctantly sent in Federal troops to protect the students and ensure their right to be at Central High, Jackie Robinson, now a coffee and food vending executive, was reasonably pleased although he believed that decisive Presidential action on civil rights was overdue. Over the years, he had grown increasingly impatient with what he regarded as Eisenhower’s failure to face up to the hard facts: Not only did racism exist, so did white efforts to physically intimidate Southern blacks who dared to challenge segregation. He therefore called upon the Chief Executive to guarantee the Federal Government’s support of black attempts to exercise rights already granted under the Constitution but in practice denied them because of white resistance. 
Letter Jackie Wrote to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in May of 1958

(6) Jackie Robinson Quotes

Choose one of the quotes from Jackie Robinson and argue why you think it might best represent who he was, what he desired, or his message, based on what you have learned so far about him.

Different Quotes by Jackie Robinson

Media Credits

(1) When Robinson is called out / Chronicling America – Library of Congress

(2) Jackie Meets Detroit Mayor Candidates / Chronicling America – Library of Congress

(3) Jackie Getting Interviewed by Reporters / Library of Congress

(4) “The Jackie Robinson Story” / Chronicling America – Library of Congress

(5) Letter to the President / National Archives

(6) Jackie Robinson Quotes / National Archives

Photo of Jackie Robinson (Historical Context) / Pixabay

A colored girl at a water fountain (Historian’s Process) / Wikipedia

World War I Through Posters: How did both Allied and Central Powers Utilize Posters to Increase Support for War Efforts?

Essential Question: How did both allied and central powers utilize posters to increase support for war efforts during WWI?

In this lesson, students will be analyzing posters from both sides of WWI to gain a better understanding of the Great War. Students will look at sources individually, utilizing close reading, contextualization, and sourcing skills to gain a better sense of the historical content of each poster and determine how these posters appealed to the public. In addition, students will analyze posters in groups, looking for patterns between the posters in order to gain a sense of the trends utilized by poster makers to increase support for the war efforts.

Background Information: World War I was a conflict from 1914-1918 that involved many nations throughout the entire world. Known as “The Great War” during the time, the conflict introduced new horrors and realities of war due to technological advancements in equipment the Allied Powers (France, Great Britain and the Commonwealth, Russia, and the United States) fought the Central Powers (Germany, Austro-Hungarian Empire, The Ottoman Empire). This war was significantly different than previous conflicts in human history, providing new challenges to nations in their efforts to garner support for the war effort by their entire populations. Below is a short video introducing the primary causes for the start of World War I.

Activity #1: War Bonds

One way in which “The Great War” differed from past wars was the extent to which civilians were involved in the WWI. Analyze the four primary source documents below and answer the guiding questions.

Question 1: In what ways were civilians asked to help in this conflict according to these posters?

Question 2: How would this help aid the war effort according to the posters? How might this aid from civilians changed the tide of the war in reality?

Activity #2: Total War

A term coined by World War I historians to characterize this changing nature of war was the idea of “Total War”. Analyze the four posters below, and answer the follow on questions.

Question 3: What might the term “total war” mean using evidence from these posters?

Question 4: How were roles changing for specific groups in society as a consequence of “The Great War?” Why might that be? Give examples from the posters.

Activity #3: Patriotic Symbols

Many countries used symbols to help rally support for the war. Look at these posters below, and answer the follow on questions.

Question 5: Why might have war supporters used posters to help garner support for their cause?

Question 6: Are symbols like the ones used in WWI still used today to help rally people to a cause? Give an example.

Activity #4: Portrayal of the “Other”

In addition to gaining support for the war, both the allies and the central powers looked to depict the enemies of their nations in negative ways, as displayed below. Analyze these posters, and answer the questions below.

Question 7: How did poster makers utilize imagery to depict other nations?

Question 8: Why might such a tactic have been so effective during wartime?


WWI was a war that changed not only the political landscape of Europe and the entire world, but also the way in which war was perceived and fought. In order to address this changing way in which warfare was conducted, nations had to appeal to their countries in innovative and different ways than in the past. A nation could no longer rely on a section of their population to win their country’s wars; instead, a reliance on the entire populace became necessary for all powers if they hoped to win the “Great War”. With this extreme reliance came a drastic social changes for all parts of world.

Concluding Activity: Utilizing techniques poster makers used during WWI, make your own WWI era poster. Ensure you have an image and text within the poster that display a point of view that would appeal to a certain segment of a population. You may choose to make a poster for any power involved in “The Great War”.

Political Cartoons of the American Revolution

Essential Question: To what extent are political cartoons an effective means to promote a political position or ideal?

This lesson is designed to help students understand how to break down the symbolism, deeper meaning, and most importantly perspective of a political cartoon using the American Revolution as the context. The students will be guided through six political cartoons from both Patriot and Loyalist perspectives during the American Revolution, and will attempt to distinguish the importance or meaning of (already identified and pointed out) symbolism along with how that influences their opinion on what the author’s perspective might be. Without structure and guidance from the instructor, however, the images might be too challenging for students to analyze, which is why it is important to point out important symbolism/meaning in the image and have students think critically on how to interpret a deeper meaning from the cartoons.

(I had a plan for verbally walking through the images, but for this post I will transcribe what I planned on explaining verbally into a written paragraph for each image ASAP!)

America’s History of Rebellion

Essential Question(s): What are some examples of rebellion in American history? What were the motivations behind these instances and what were the results? What are the similarities or differences between historical examples and modern ones? What about these instances of rebellion have stood the test of time and remained relevant in our society?


Throughout America’s history, there have been countless cases where a group of people have caused unrest in order to send a message. Often times, these cases of unrest can insight violence. In this unit, we will be observing three instances where people rose to rebel: two that take place further back in history, as well as one modern example. In each of these cases, we will learning about the factors that contributed to the rebellion as well as the immediate and long term effects. In order to think critically about what we are learning, we will be analyzing various sources to help us gather information to better understand the factors that contributed to each of these events. This will encourage us to think like historians and use sources to deepen our knowledge and help us build connections. At the end of the unit, we will be comparing and contrasting the motivations, circumstances, and impacts of the Stono Rebellion, the Tulsa Riots, and the Ferguson Unrest to try and make connections between events in history and the present.

Historical Context

Although the Stono Rebellion took place before the official founding of America, it still is very much a part of American history. In 1739, a group of 20 slaves planned their escape and robbed a convenience store – killing the two storekeepers in the process – on Stono’s bridge in South Carolina. As this group of escaped slaves continued south, more continued to join them. When slave owners caught up to the group of nearly 100 escaped slaves, violence was incited. The result was that over 20 white and nearly 40 Black South Carolinians were killed. Because of this, lawmakers in the Colonies at the time began creating and enforcing harsher slave rules. As part of this, slaves were no longer permitted to have their own money or learn how to read. Although Stono’s Rebellion is only one of over 200 documented slave revolts in the history of the U.S. Colonies and the south, it is the largest slave revolt in the Colonies prior to the American Revolution.

The Tulsa race riot, happening almost 200 years later, had some different motivations behind it. In 1921, white residents in Tulsa, Oklahoma attacked Black owned businesses as well as the workers in the Greenwood district. The Greenwood District was significant in the fact that it was the wealthiest Black community in the United States at the time, sometimes being called “Black Wall Street.” These attacks were supposedly started because it was rumored that one of the Black workers in one of the businesses in Greenwood assaulted a white elevator attendant. As news of the event spread, mob violence ensued and Black Wall Street was attacked. Black owned businesses in Tulsa were bombed from the land and by private airplane; workers inside the buildings were beaten and shot. The result was that over the course of that Memorial Day weekend, an estimated 100-300 Black residents of the area were killed and thousands more were injured.

The Ferguson unrest is different from our other two examples of rebellion in America’s history in the way that it is still recent to memory, happening in 2014. This event was incited by the death of Michael Brown, a Black teenager who was shot by a Ferguson police officer. When this case went to court, the Officer responsible for Michael Brown’s death was not indicted. Many people interpreted this ruling as an injustice to Black people and claimed that the event was evidence of systematic racism in America. Those who shared these views took to the streets of Ferguson to express their feelings of injustice, and violence and vandalism ensued along with forms of peaceful protest. To try and combat the riots, Ferguson police officers began enforcing curfews on citizens and riot squads began monitoring the streets. This caused even more unrest in Ferguson, and a divided line between citizens and police was formed. Police officers fired tear gas at rioters and rioters charged at police barricades to express their feelings of injustice. Although this historic event did not involve any deaths other than that of Michael Brown, over 300 citizens were arrested. This event as largely seen as creating a domino effect that contributed to the feelings of distrust towards the police amongst American citizens.

Historical Thinking Skills

Close Reading: throughout this unit, students will be evaluating sources that cover the instances of rebellion in this unit. Part of this source evaluation will involve students gathering evidence from the text that support the author’s point of view, including key words, quotes, etc.

Contextualization: in addition to close reading of sources, students will also be participating in contextualization. Once students have found the author’s point of view as well as supported evidence from the source, they will be asked questions that will encourage them to analyze why the author may have that point of view.

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