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Lt. Robinson

On July 6, 1944, one of the 761st's few black officers, Lieutenant Jackie Robinson, was riding a civilian bus from Camp Hood to the nearby town of Belton. He refused to move to the back of the bus when told to do so by the driver. Court-martial charges ensued but could not proceed because the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Paul L. Bates, would not consent to the charges. The top brass at Camp Hood then transferred Robinson to the 758th Tank Battalion, whose commander signed the court-martial consent. The lieutenant's trial opened on August 2 and lasted for 17 days, and during that time the 761st departed Camp Hood. Robinson was eventually acquitted. Three years later, Robinson was riding buses in the major leagues after breaking baseball's color barrier.  An article in the Spring 2008 edition (Vol. 40, No. 1) of the National Archives publication Prologue provides a detailed description and documents relating to the story of Lieutenant Jackie Robinson's battle with Jim Crow in the military and later in civilian life. Click here to see the original article at National Archives website. The first paragraphs of the article are quoted below:

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As Allied troops continued their drive into the heart of Europe a month after the D-day landing in 1944, an incident that would provide a preview of post–World War II events in America was unfolding in Texas.

A young African American Army officer attached to an all-black unit at Camp Hood was subjected to a general court-martial — for resisting usual southern protocol and refusing to move to the back of the bus on the military post when directed by the driver to do so.

The trial of the young officer at Camp (now Fort) Hood received little notice at the time, but his action — refusing to go to the "back of the bus" — would become a symbolic act of the civil rights movement in the decades following the war.

And the young lieutenant would gain some valuable training for a later role as a pioneer in securing equal rights for black Americans in sports — already showing the same qualities that would make him great on the playing field and elsewhere: physical and emotional valor; strength of character; and fierce, unyielding determination to confront and conquer racism.

Second Lieutenant Jack Roosevelt Robinson was beginning to make history, well before 1947, when he became the first person of his race to play in baseball's major leagues. The sports part of Robinson's story has been exceedingly well documented, so it is understandable that the periods immediately preceding and following that phase of life have atttracted relatively little public attention.

More than 60 years later, there is still not complete consensus on exactly what happened in 1944 and why. But Robinson's gutsy action foreshadowed subsequent baseball diamond conduct and served notice on the military, which would begin desegregating in 1948, and the world that here was a black man unwilling to take even a modicum of racial guff.

 

Click here to see the whole article at National Archives website

Lt. Robinson