Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 12, 2016

How the LA Times reported on UCLA athlete Jackie Robinson in 1939

Filed under: racism,sports — louisproyect @ 1:29 am

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(Hat tip to Ken Burns documentary that started this evening on PBS.)


  1. I missed the Ken Burns show on Jackie Robinson, but many people know his story. He was a multi sport star at UCLA and his still the only “Bruin” to letter in 4 sports football, baseball, basketball, and track. Of course his he made social and baseball history when he played first base for the Dodgers on opening day of 1947. However, very few people remember Kenny Washington another black man, one of four who played on the UCLA football team with Jackie. Kenny Washington was a better football player than Jackie Robinson and set a total offense record in 1939 playing with Jackie that stood into the 1970’s. He was the first consensus all American for UCLA and the first jersey UCLA ever retired was Kenny Washington. The NFL like MLB barred Black people from participating in their sport at a professional level. Early in the history of the NFL a few Blacks participated but by the time Kenny Washington was ready to play in 1940 a Jim Crow policy was in full force in the NFL. Then in 1946 the Cleveland Rams moved to Los Angeles and wanted to play in the Coliseum a public stadium built for the 1932 Olympics. A movement grew to prevent the Rams from leasing the Coliseum unless they ended their racist exclusionary policies. The Rams caved in and signed Kenny Washington so they could secure their lease but it also broke the Jim Crow policy of the NFL. So you had Jackie in baseball and Kenny Washington in football both broke the color barrier in there sports and played in the same backfield for UCLA. Everyone knows Jackie and almost nobody knows Kenny Washington, too bad.

    Comment by Michael Tormey — April 12, 2016 @ 12:24 pm

  2. The story of Kenny Washington is fascinating. If I follow it correctly Mr. Washington actually broke the major league color barrier one year before Mr. Robinson. I guess that he is not as well remembered only because at that time baseball was more important in the eyes of the nation’s males than football and a few blacks had played in the early history of the NFL

    Comment by Curt Kastens — April 13, 2016 @ 10:55 pm

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