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Black Heritage – Part 5

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Jack (Jackie) Roosevelt Robinson (b.1919 – d.1972) was a black American professional baseball player who became the first African American to play in American Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era. Robinson broke the “baseball collar line” when he started a game at for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. When the Dodgers signed Robinson, it marked the end of racial segregation in professional baseball that had relegated black players to the Negro Leagues since the 1880s. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

During his 10-year MLB career, Robinson won the first Rookie of the Year Award in 1947, was chosen for the All-Star team for six consecutive seasons from 1949 through 1954, and won theNational League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949 – the first black player so honoured. Robinson played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers’ 1955 World Series championship.

U.S.A. 1999

In 1997, MLB retired his shirt number 42 across all major league teams. He was the first professional athlete in any sport to be so honoured. MLB also adopted a new annual tradition, “Jackie Robinson Day”, for the first time on April 15, 2004, on which every player on every team wears the number 42.

Robinson’s character and his talent challenged the traditional basis of segregation that had then marked many other aspects of American life. He influenced the culture of and contributed significantly to the civil rights movement. Robinson also was the first black television analyst in MLB and the first black vice-president of a major American corporation. In the 1960s, he helped establish the Freedom National Bank – an African-American-owned financial institution based in Harlem, New York. After his death in 1972, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his achievements on and off the field.

In 2000 the U.S.P.S. issued the above stamp sheet, Jackie Robinson featuring top left.

U.S.A 1982, Ralphe Bunche

Ralph Johnson Bunche (1904 – 1971) was an American political scientist, academic and diplomat who in 1950 became the first African American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This was in recognition of his late-1940s mediation work in Israel. He was involved in the formation and administration of the United Nations and played a major role in numerous peacekeeping operations sponsored by that organisation. In 1963, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy. 

Bunche served on the United States delegation to both the Washington Conversations on International Peace and Security Organization in 1944 and the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco in 1945 that drafted the UN charter. Bunche served on the American delegation to the first session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. He then joined the UN as head of the Trusteeship Department, and began a long series of troubleshooting roles. In 1948 he became an acting mediator for the Middle East, negotiating an armistice between Egypt and Israel. For this success he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He continued to serve at the United Nations, working on crises in the Sinai (1956), the Congo (1960), Yemen (1963), Cyprus (1964) and Bahrain (1970), reporting directly to the UN Secretary General U Thant. He also chaired study groups dealing with water resources in the Middle East. In 1957 he was promoted to Undersecretary for Special Political Affairs, having prime responsibility for peacekeeping roles. In 1965 he supervised the cease-fire following the war between India and Pakistan. He retired from the UN in 1971.

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