The following videos are clips from:

"Jackie Robinson"
A Film by Ken Burns & Sara Burns & David McMahon

Use these videos to supplement the Breaking Barriers program lessons. Click here to access all lessons in Breaking Barriers.

Videos 1–4 are recommended to supplement Lesson 1: “Learning About Barriers”
Videos 5–6 are recommended to supplement Lesson 2: “Learning How Values Help Us Face Barriers”

See individual lessons ffor guidance on how to incorporate the videos and for critical-thinking questions. All videos will open in a new window.

Video 1: "The Color Line in Baseball and Society"

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Description: Since emancipation, America was composed of two separate societies: white and black. African-Americans had largely remained impoverished, suppressed by segregation, and terrorized by white violence. But they created their own businesses, political associations, labor unions, colleges, and newspapers that had tried to help improve black lives and inspire expectations. Only a few professional sports were integrated and heroes, such as Jack Johnson and Joe Louis, defeated white boxers for the boxing title. Because African-Americans were barred from playing in Major League Baseball due to the "gentlemen’s agreement," they formed their own separate, but athletically equal, leagues and teams. Several writers for African-American newspapers, such as Wendell Smith, a sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Courier , launched a decade-long assault on the ban.


Video 2: "The Negro Leagues"

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Description: In this clip, the narrator describes how Jackie Robinson entered the Negro Leagues, playing for the Kansas City Monarchs. Buck O’Neil relates a story of the team bus stopping at a filling station in Oklahoma and the station attendant telling team members they can’t use the restroom because it is for whites only. Robinson tells the attendant, "No restroom, no gas." Fearing the loss of a large sale of gasoline for the team bus, the attendant reluctantly agrees to let the players use the restroom.

 

Video 3: "Major League Baseball Integration"

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Description: The narrator describes how some MLB teams were being pressured to audition black players to join the teams. Reluctantly, the Boston Red Sox agreed and invited three players, including Jackie Robinson, to a tryout. The players traveled to Boston and tried out, but never heard from the Red Sox again. Meanwhile, MLB got a new commissioner who was not opposed to integration. Branch Rickey, president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, dispatched his scouts to see Robinson play. According to a historian interviewed in the clip, there were other candidates with the necessary athletic abilities, but Rickey was not shopping for mere ability, he was shopping for character.

 

Video 4: "Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey"

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Description: Rickey had one of his agents go to a Monarchs game in Chicago and meet with Jackie Robinson to tell him Rickey is interested in having him play for the Dodgers. Robinson is skeptical at first, but agrees to talk with Rickey. On August 28, 1945, the two men meet in Rickey’s office. After introductions and questions about Robinson’s private life, Rickey turned to baseball and leveled with Robinson that he needed more than just a good baseball player—he needed someone who could take the abuse and insults without retaliating. He put Robinson to the test by screaming in his face every expletive that Robinson would ever hear. Robinson understood the reasoning and agreed that if Rickey was willing to take the gamble, then he was also willing to try.

 

Video 5: "Jackie Robinson Enters the Majors"

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Description: The day finally came, April 15, 1947—opening day at Ebbets Field. Playing first base for the Dodgers was number 42, Jackie Robinson. He played a good game and the Dodgers won. The black press declared Robinson’s arrival as a landmark event. The white press just reported on the game and didn’t acknowledge Robinson’s entry into the majors. The first week of play was without incident. But when the Dodgers played the Philadelphia Phillies at Ebbets Field, the Phillies came with their sharp-tongued manager from Alabama, Ben Chapman, who did his best to upset Robinson. Throughout the first season, Robinson received more abuse on the field from pitchers who threw at his head, runners who spiked him with their cleats, and players who retaliated at him for his aggressive play, but Robinson kept his cool and played his game.

 

Video 6: "Jackie Robinson and the Freedom Bank"

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Description: As Sharon Robinson explains in this clip, her father knew that just gaining civil rights was not enough and that African-Americans needed to attain economic independence. In 1964, Robinson helped found the Freedom National Bank, a primarily black-owned and black-operated financial institution that would serve the people of Harlem who, for years, had struggled to get home mortgages and business loans. Defying the stereotype that "the Negro was a bad credit risk," the bank prospered and opened a second branch. Three years after it opened, Freedom National Bank would be the most successful black-run bank in the country.