An Open Letter to Jackie Robinson
"Here's My Story," Freedom, April
I notice in a recent issue of "Our World"
magazine that some folks think you're too outspoken.' Certainly not many of our
folks share that view. They think like you that the Yankees, making many a
"buck" oil Harlem, might have had a few of our ball players just like
Brooklyn. In fact I know you've seen where a couple of real brave fellows, the
Turgerson brothers, think it's about time we continued our breaking into the Southern
leagues‑Arkansas and Mississippi included.
am happy, Jackie, to have been in the fight for
real democracy in sports years ago. I was proud to stand with Judge Landis in
1946 and, at his invitation, address the major league owners, demanding that
the bars against Negroes in baseball be dropped. I knew from my experiences as
a pro football player that the fans would not only take us‑but like us. That's
now been proven many times over.
Maybe these protests around you,
Jackie, explain a lot of things about people trying to shut up those of us who
speak out in many other fields.
You read in the paper every day about
"doings" in Africa. These things are very important to us. A free
Africa‑a continent of 200 millions of folks like us and related to us‑can do a
lot to change things here.
In South Africa black folks are
challenging Malan, a kind of super Ku Kluxer. These Africans are refusing to
obey Jim Crow laws. They want some freedom like we do, and they're willing to
suffer and sacrifice for it. Malan and a lot of powerful American investors
would like to shut them up and lock them up.
Well, I'm very proud that these African brothers
sisters of ours play my records as they march in their parades. A good part of
my time is spent in the work of the Council on African Affairs, supervised by
Dr. Alphaeus Hunton, an expert on Africa and son of a great YMCA leader, the
late William Hunton. Co‑chairman of the Council is Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, one of
the greatest Americans who ever lived. We raise funds for Africans and bring
information to Americans about the conditions in Africa—conditions to be
compared with, but worse than, those in Mississippi and Alabama.
We bring the truth
about Kenya, for example‑about a
man like Kenyatta, leader of the Kikiyu, a proud African people of centuries of
culture. I know Kenyatta. He's a highly educated man, with many more degrees
than we have, Jackie. He's getting seven years in jail because he wants his
people to be free. And there are Americans of African descent who are today on
trial, in jail, fugitives, or dead (!) because they fought in their own way for
their people to be free. Kenyatta's sentence calls to mind Ben Davis, Henry
Winston, James Jackson, Claudia Jones, Pettis Perry and, yes, Harry Moore.
goes here, Jackie? Well, I'll tell
you. The same kind of people who don't want you to point up injustices to your
folks, the same people who think you ought to stay in your "place,"
the same people who want to shut you up‑want to shut up any one of us who
speaks out for our full equality, for all of our rights.
the heart of what I said in Paris
in 1949, for example. As a matter of fact the night before I got to Paris 2,000
representatives of colored colonial peoples from all over the world (most of
them students in English universities) asked me and Dr. Dadoo, leader of the
Indian population in South Africa, to greet the Congress of Peace in Paris in
These future leaders of their countries were from
Nigeria, Gold Coast, South Africa, Kenya, Java, Indonesia, India, Jamaica,
Trinidad, Barbadoes, the Philippines, Japan, Burma, and other lands. They were
the shapers of the future in the Eastern and colonial world and they asked us
to say to this Congress representing about 800 million of the world's 2,000
million that they and their countries wanted peace, no war with anybody. They
said they certainly did not want war with the Soviet Union and China because
these countries had come out of conditions similar to their own. But the Soviet
Union and China were now free of the so‑called "free western"
imperialist powers. They were countries which had proved that colonial
countries could get free, that colored peoples were as good as any other.
these students made it clear that
they felt that the nations who wanted war wanted it in order to head off
struggles of colonial peoples, as in Indo‑China, Malaya, Africa and Korea, for
freedom. For example, if you could start a war in Africa the authorities could
clamp down completely with war measures. (It's bad enough now!)
felt that peace was
absolutely needed in order for their peoples to progress. And certainly, they
said they saw no need to die for foreign firms which had come in and taken
their land, rubber, cocoa, gold, diamonds, copper and other riches.
I had to agree that it seemed to me
that the same held good in these United States. There was and is no need to
talk of war against any nation. We Afro‑Americans need peace to continue the
struggle for our full rights. And there is no need for any of our American
youth to be used as cannon and bomb fodder anywhere in the world.
I was and am for an immediate cease‑fire
in Korea and for peace. And it seemed and still seems unthinkable to me that
colored or working folk anywhere would continue to rush to die for these who
own most of the stocks and bonds, under the guise of false patriotism.
was born and raised in America,
Jackie—on the East Coast as you were on the West. I'm a product of American
institutions, as you. My father was a slave and my folks worked cotton and
tobacco, and still do in Eastern North Carolina. I'll always have the right to
speak out, yes, shout at the top of my voice for full freedom for my people
here, in the West Indies, in Africa‑and for our real allies, actual and
potential, millions of poor white workers who will never be free until we are
And, Jackie, the success of a few of us
is no final answer. It helps, but this alone can't free all of us. Your child,
my grandchildren, won't be free until our millions, especially in the South,
have full opportunity and full human dignity.
We fight in many ways.
experience, I think it's got to be a militant fight. One has to square off with
the enemy once in a while.
Thanks for the recognition that I am a
great ex‑athlete. In the recent record books the All‑American team of 1918 and
the nationally‑picked team of 1917 have only ten players‑my name is omitted.
And also thanks for the expression of
your opinion that I'm certainly a great singer and actor. A lot of people in
the world think so and would like to hear me. But I can't get a passport. And
here in my own America millions of Americans would like to hear me. But I can't
get auditoriums to sing or act in. And I'm sometimes picketed by the American
Legion and other Jim Crow outfits. I have some records on the market but have
difficulty getting shops to take them.
People who "beef" at those of
us who speak out, Jackie, are afraid of us. Well, let them be afraid. I'm
continuing to speak out, and I hope you will, too. And our folks and many
others like them all over the world will make it‑and soon!
Believe me, Jackie.