First Class Citizenship

The Civil Rights Letters of Jackie Robinson

Edited by Michael G. Long

Times Books

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Never-before-published letters offer a rich portrait of the baseball star as a fearless advocate for racial justice at the highest levels of American politics
 
Jackie Robinson’s courage on the baseball diamond is one of the great stories of the struggle for civil rights in America, and his Hall of Fame career speaks for itself. But we no longer hear Robinson speak for himself; his death at age fifty-three in 1972 robbed America of his voice far too soon.

In First Class Citizenship, Jackie Robinson comes alive on the page for the first time in decades. The scholar Michael G. Long has unearthed a remarkable trove of Robinson’s correspondence with—and personal replies from—such towering figures as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Hubert Humphrey, Nelson Rockefeller, and Barry Goldwater. These extraordinary conversations reveal the scope and depth of Robinson’s effort during the 1950s and 1960s to rid America of racism.

Writing eloquently and with evident passion, Robinson charted his own course, offering his support to Democrats and to Republicans, questioning the tactics of the civil rights movement, and challenging the nation’s leaders when he felt they were guilty of hypocrisy—or worse. Through his words as well as his actions, Jackie Robinson truly personified the “first class citizenship” that he considered the birthright of all Americans, whatever their race.

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First Class Citizenship
1FAITH IN DEMOCRACY1946-1956ROBINSON TO RALPH NORTONJackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier on August 28, 1945, when he signed a letter of agreement that bound him to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Two months later, on October 23, Branch Rickey, general manager of the Dodgers, offered Robinson a formal contract to play for the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' top farm team. In this handwritten letter to Ralph Norton, an acquaintance from his days at Pasadena Junior College, Robinson writes of his tryout in Florida the following spring.

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Praise for First Class Citizenship

“Here is Jackie Robinson as we’ve never seen him before – wielding a pen instead of a baseball bat, and doing so with devastating effect. Michael G. Long’s book is not only an important contribution to history, it’s a thrilling story that reveals the making of a true American hero. Page by page, we watch as a great athlete becomes a great man. First Class Citizenship is first class all the way.”—Jonathan Eig, author of Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season and Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig

 

“When I was growing up in Atlanta, I saw Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers play an exhibition game against the local white team. It was one of the most thrilling experiences of my childhood. I remember feeling as if Robinson had won something for all of the black people in the stands that day, and I had much the same feeling as I read the letters in this remarkable book. First Class Citizenship shows us Jackie Robinson at the center of the political battles of the civil rights movement, and we are fortunate to have his words to help guide us today.”—Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., senior managing director, Lazard, former president of the National Urban League, and author of Vernon Can Read!
 
First Class Citizenship is a rich and impressive reminder of how a courageous, pioneering athlete can also become an insistent and independent-minded political activist on behalf of human rights for all.”—David J. Garrow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Bearing The Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
 
“These letters from and to Jackie Robinson demonstrate clearly the stirring political and intellectual reach of the man, his rare courage and vision. They document his unrelenting desire to match his prowess on the baseball field with significant achievements in politics, business, and civil rights. It is clear that, compared to Robinson, few of our star athletes have possessed as profound a sense of responsibility to their fellow citizens--rich and poor, black and white--and to their nation as a whole.”—Arnold Rampersad, author of Jackie Robinson: A Biography
 

First Class Citizenship presents a full picture of the man whose grace and confidence on the field were matched (if not surpassed) by a voice that spoke out, long and loud, for the equal opportunity, civil rights, and humanity of all Americans.  Jackie Robinson’s letters are a rich and invaluable contribution to his singular legacy and to the dynamic history of the civil rights movement.”—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University


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About the Author

Edited by Michael G. Long

Michael G. Long is an assistant professor of religious studies at Elizabethtown College and is the author of several books on religion and politics in mid-century America, including Against Us, but for Us: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the State and Billy Graham and the Beloved Community: America’s Evangelist and the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. He lives in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

Michael G. Long

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Available Formats and Book Details

First Class Citizenship
The Civil Rights Letters of Jackie Robinson
Edited by Michael G. Long

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
Times Books
October 2007
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429920193
ISBN10: 142992019X
384 pages, Includes eight pages of pictures
$7.99
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