Television Home    Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson Home    Training   Thoughts on the Production



Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson--The Facts Behind the Story


In 1943 while serving in Texas with the 761st Tank Battalion of the 2nd Cavalry Division, famed black baseball player Jackie Robinson encountered institutional racism in both the American south and the American Army. He fought back with the sort of low-key dignity that only African-Americans who experienced such social injustice in those early pre-civil rights days can understand. The American military was struggling with black men in the ranks and bigots in uniform. America needed every capable soldier on the front lines, but black soldiers were generally shuffled off to quartermaster, transportation or supply units. They were considered good enough to be mess cooks or stevedores, but not good enough to fight in the nation's premiere infantry or armor outfits.

As the war effort continually demanded more and more combat units for the planned invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, all-black outfits were raised and trained under white commanding officers. Robinson found himself serving in one of these units after he left his promising baseball career in the Negro Leagues to join the U.S. Army. He won a commission and was a tank platoon leader undergoing training at Ft. Hood, Texas when he ran afoul of a racist officer and refused to be intimidated. Much to the embarrassment of the U.S. Army and most of its professional officers, Jackie Robinson was referred to General Court-Martial. The high-profile case and Robinson's popularity as a ballplayer shed some unflattering light on the Army's racial policies. In the end he was cleared of charges and continued to serve until the end of the war.