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Jackie Robinson & The Fall Of Bronzeville

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Jackie Robinson’s integration into baseball caused an economic vacuum that the African-American community is still trying to recover from. The case is so wide ranging one only need to look at one neighborhood to see all of the effects, the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s south side.

Between 1910 and 1930 the black populations in the north rose about 20% on average. This was called “the great migration” in which African Americans ventured north to find work. Work in the south was in short supply because of a boll weevil infestation in the cotton crops. Jobs were to be had in the factories and steel mills of the north because a need of supplies for the mounting World War I. Railroad companies were so desperate for help that they paid African Americans' travel expenses to the North. After the war began the migration slowed because of men joining the armed forces but it would pick back up after the War. The Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper, was a remarkably successful in encouraging blacks to migrate from the South to Chicago, often listing names of churches and other organizations to whom they could write for help. During the early 1900’s Bronzeville was home to a number of black newspapers and 731 different business establishments, by 1917 there was 61 different lines of work available. By 1929 Bronzeville Americans had amassed $100 million in real-estate holdings alone.

The first thing that has to be understood is that segregation is not a totally bad thing. It taught the African American community to provide services for itself in all areas of living. These services catered to the African American community almost exclusively. From hotels to bakeries, taverns and restaurants, grocery stores, to funeral homes. The funeral home in the African American community was always a good career choice, one could become fiscally well off or as well of as an African American could get. The morticians were the primary financial boosters of many a new Negro league baseball club. The other influx of capital into baseball clubs was from racketeers who saw an opportunity to clean up their money. The “Negro League” was created in 1920 in Chicago by Rube Foster. He wasn’t a mortician or a numbers man but an ex-player who organized the independent teams into a league in the larger cities, primarily in the north. Cities such as Pittsburgh, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Newark, and Chicago became hubs for the industrious men and women who ran and played for these teams. Every team had to travel and with competition high for the best players the owners spared no expense in pampering their stars. Only the best accommodations were in order for the Satchel Paige’s, Josh Gibson’s, and Judy Johnson’s. This meant that high priced African American hotels were at a premium because they wanted to be the official hotel of the “Homestead Grays” or “Pittsburgh Crawfords”. The hotels would sign the best lounge acts they could find such as Louie Armstrong or Billie Holliday. This kept the hotels and taverns of the area buzzing with excitement all the time. Now most of these players were from down south so they would also want a bit of home cooking, this put the resturaunts into competition. The larger cities with the best hotels, restaurants, and facilities always held the all-star game. The game was always held in Chicago except for the 1946 game (Griffith Stadium, Washington D.C.). The Players themselves were the highest paid, most well recognized people in the community. Their fame brought people to the neighborhoods in which they lived. Players like everyone else in society will try to live near their job. In Chicago, the closest black community near the park they played in (Comiskey Park) was Bronzeville. It was not only home to ballplayers but to other influential members of the African American community such as, author Richard Wright, musician Louie Armstrong, and poet Gwendolyn Brooks. The league was flourishing as much as its supportive community, until an ex all-American fullback from UCLA decided to give baseball a try after a stint in the military.

Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia on January 31, 1919 to a family of sharecroppers. As a youngster his mother, Mallie, would move him and his four brothers and sisters to Los Angeles. Jackie was a star athlete excelling in football and track, eventually earning all-American honors at UCLA. As most men his age he joined the army in 1941 and served two years and earning the rank of second lieutenant. He was originally dishonorable discharged over Jim Crow rules on an army bus. In 1945 he signed with the Kansas City Monarchs because their in field was left depleted by World War II. The star attraction on the team was the



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