This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about Jackie Robinson. Designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Jackie Robinson, you will find ideas for developing related understandings and ways to use other BrainPOP Jr. resources to scaffold and extend student learning.

Jackie Robinson was born in 1919 and grew up in Pasadena, California. As a young man, he excelled in different sports: basketball, tennis, track and field, football, and baseball. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles where he was the first student to earn a varsity letter in four different sports.

Help children understand that during Jackie Robinson’s lifetime, African Americans were treated unfairly just because of their skin color. Review that segregation is the separation of people based on their race, culture, religion, or other reason. Explain to them that during this period in history, nearly every sector of the United States was segregated–schools, government institutions, buses, trains, restaurants, and even sports teams.

The Negro League was a baseball league for African-American players. Help children recognize that while there were many talented players, they weren’t allowed to play in the major leagues with white players. Major league players enjoyed more visibility and fame, higher pay, and even better stadiums and playing conditions than Negro League players. It was yet another example of Jim Crow laws at work.

Jackie Robinson excelled at playing shortstop for the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs. Brooklyn Dodgers’ general manager Branch Rickey, who was looking to sign black players, noticed Robinson. Although Rickey had expressed interest in other black players, he was drawn to Robinson’s intelligence and drive. By many accounts, Robinson was not the strongest player in the Negro Leagues, but Rickey saw potential. He knew that a black player would face discrimination and unfair treatment in the major leagues. Review with children that treating people differently because of their race, religion, culture, or other characteristic is called discrimination. Rickey wanted to know that Robinson would not resort to violence in the face of discrimination, and that he would handle it peacefully.

Jackie Robinson’s autobiography describes how he asked Rickey, “Are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” Rickey replied that he needed a player “with guts enough not to fight back.” In 1946, Rickey signed Robinson to the Montreal Royals, the minor league team that fed the Dodgers. In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to break through the color barrier and join Major League Baseball.

As Rickey predicted, bringing Robinson into the major leagues was met with outrage. Some baseball players refused to play with him, including a few of his teammates. (Those players were chastised and told to leave if they couldn’t play alongside Robinson.) During games the crowd jeered and even threw things at him. But Robinson refused to fight back, rising above the mistreatment. Many of Robinson’s teammates supported him, as did some players on opposing teams. Robinson ignored vitriolic epithets and threats, and let his talent speak for itself. In his first season with the Dodgers, Robinson led the league in stolen bases and sacrifice hits, earning the Rookie of the Year award for his stellar performance.