LAW & CRIME

The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson: The Baseball Legend’s Battle for Civil Rights during World War II

Stackpole. Mar. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780811738644. $29.95. LAW
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Though athlete Jackie Robinson is known for breaking baseball’s color barrier, his activism started earlier than most realize. On July 6, 1944, a young Robinson, then a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, boarded a bus headed to his barracks in Camp Hood, TX, after a night of socializing. The white bus driver, offended that a black officer was sitting next to a “white woman” (she was actually the light-skinned African American wife of a fellow black officer), told Robinson to move to the back of the bus. His refusal led to his subsequent arrest and court-martial. Through copious primary source research—court transcripts, testimonies, letters, and witness statements—Lanning (Vietnam 1969-1970: A Company Commander’s Journal) argues that this court-martial became an early touchstone moment in civil rights history, especially with regard to the racial integration of the U.S. military.
VERDICT Bringing further attention to a subject that has been glossed over in most works about Robinson, this effective, thought-provoking study will appeal to those interested in civil rights and military history during World War II.

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