The Paul Robeson—Jackie Robinson Saga And A Political Collision

1083 words - 5 pages

Ingrid B.
US History 114-602
Fall 2012
Bergen Community College

By Ronald A. Smith
Journal of Sport History, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Summer, 1979) P 5-27

Dr. Ronald A. Smith, a historian and Professor Emeritus at Penn State University analyzes Jackie Robinson's appearance, and impact before the House UN-American Activities Committee in light of anti-American messages made by the entertainer and former Rutgers University All-American football superstar Paul Robeson. Smith argues that for symbolical grounds, the federal government reached out to Jackie Robinson so he can assist in getting rid of Paul Robeson from his ...view middle of the document...

The time-line takes us through the Jim Crow era, the crucial 1920's and 1930's, the impact of World War II, and the desegregation of baseball. Furthermore, Smith uses historical evidence to portray how the federal government skillfully orchestrated tactics to set up one of the biggest showdown between two heroes before a committee. This was evident in the reading “At the time of HUAC hearings on communist infiltration of minority groups, Robinson was leading the National League in batting with a .360 avg communist infiltration of minority groups, Robinson was also the top vote getter in the annual all-star balloting in his league. It was not unexpected that HUAC would ask a black of Robinson’s public exposure to testify against another prominent black.” (P.19). Hence setting up a stage for a clash, and putting Robinson in an inedible dilemma, whereas if he refused to testify he risked being labeled a communist sympathizer, and if he testified the segregationist could use his statements to deny discrimination in America.

Despite the fact that Smith attempts to be impartial in this essay, by laying down numerous acclamations, alongside trailblazing feat established by Robinson and Robeson; he does however seem to elaborate predominantly on the negative reputation and debunking of Robeson.

Although there's overwhelming acclamations by the author towards both “performers”, it seems to me that in an essay of non-partisanship, there are hints of Smith leaning towards Robinson’s ideology. Smith writes “Robinson was more realistic and pragmatic, and he fared far better socially and financially than did Robeson” (P.23), which makes me wonder, how does Robeson, a man that faced oppression, dead ends, and a system of limitations acquires an unrealistic and illogical label?. Smith failed to mention that a peaceful mind exceeds social acceptance and financial freedom.

Smith thoughtfully presented us with a flurry of no holds barred information in this essay, somehow exposing some more than others. Nonetheless, the gloves were off, whether he was talking about Robinson's non-confrontational demeanor “Even if they don’t accept us, we are doingour part and, if possible, making the way easier for those who follow. Someday some Negro player will get a break. We want to help make that day a reality.” (P.15), Robeson's loud hollering about injustice and support of...

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