On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson left the Brooklyn Dodgers dugout and assumed his position as first baseman. He was marking a moment in history as the first African-American to participate in professional team sports in any of the national’s major leagues or associations. In Promises To Keep, Sharon Robinson, daughter of the baseball legend, shares memories of her famous father — not only on how he broke the color barrier in baseball but also his commitment to advancing civil rights and his role as both a father and husband.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In “How Jackie Robinson Changed Baseball,” Jessica McBirney discusses the life and accomplishments of Jackie Robinson, the first African American Major League baseball player.
Introduce this text before students read Promises To Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, in order to provide students with a general overview of the pioneering life of Jackie Robinson as a legendary baseball player. Ask students to consider how Robinson’s contributions to baseball made him a hero to many. In what ways can his life be considered an inspiration?
In this informational text, “Life of a Slave on a Southern Plantation” the author recounts the United States’ sad history of enslaving black people in the South.
Introduce this text before students begin reading the chapter "A Black and White World," in order to provide students with some background on the history of slavery and its legacy in the United States of America. Ask students to consider how Black people were treated. Why is this history important to remember? How does the past shape our future?
This informational text details the controversial policies of Reconstruction after the American Civil War.
Introduce this text after students have read the chapter “A Black and White World” in order to provide students with additional background behind the events that are described in the chapter, as well as the role that the Civil War played and the influence the Presidents made during this period.
In “The Blue-Eyed, Brown-Eyed Exercise,” third grade teacher Jane Elliot conducted a social experiment to teach her students about prejudice and discrimination.
Introduce this text after students have read the chapter “A Black and White World” and ask them to consider what the effects of prejudices are. How did the children in Jane Elliott’s class respond to the experiment? How does the experiment help us to better understand what life might’ve been like for those living in the United States during the Jim Crow era?
This informational text explains what the Holocaust was, who it affected, who carried it out, and how it ended.
Teachers may choose to introduce this text before students read the chapter "Signs of Hope." Though the text focuses on the Holocaust that took place during World War II, it will help give students an overview of some of the Nazi ideas of racial superiority. This may help students further understand the magnitude of the sporting achievements that Jesse Owens and Joe Louis made.
This is a short biography of Ida B. Wells and the personal tragedy she experienced that pushed her to raise national awareness about violence and discrimination against African Americans.
Introduce this text after students have read “Signs of Hope” and ask students to consider how, despite the discrimination she faced, Ida B. Wells continued to speak out against racism. In what ways is Ida B. Wells an example of the commitment to a lifetime of service that Sharon Robinson discusses in the introduction to Promises To Keep?
These two excerpts capture the ideological debate about black social mobility after the Civil War.
Introduce this text after students have read “Signs of Hope.” Ask students to consider the different ideas that Washington and Du Bois have towards progress for Black people in America. Sharon Robinson cites these differences in “Signs of Hope,” how do both these differences represent progress for Black people in America?
In the informational text “The Harlem Renaissance,” Jessica McBirney discusses how the movement developed and the effect it had on America.
Introduce this text after students have read “Signs of Hope,” in order to provide students with further context on the movement that Sharon Robinson cites within the chapter. Ask students to consider how the Harlem Renaissance provided African Americans with a further opportunity to add a new aspect to their collective identity. How did their intellect, literature, art and music challenge existing ideas of African Americans and their identity?
Claude McKay (1889-1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet who was a seminal figure during the Harlem Renaissance. In this poem, McKay discusses facing death and other obstacles with courage and dignity, and reflects upon his perspective on the black experience during early 20th century America.
Introduce this text after students have read “Signs of Hope,” in order for students to learn about McKay, a Harlem Renaissance writer, and to use “If We Must Die” to analyze the events that are described in Sharon Robinson’s chapter. How does McKay use the poem to address the way African Americans should face the kind of challenges that Sharon Robinson describes in the chapter?
The informational text “Introduction to World War II” discusses the causes of World War II, as well as its progression and conclusion.
Introduce this text before students begin reading “A Determined Pair,” in order to provide students with some background information on World War II, before they begin reading about Jackie Robinson’s experiences during this period.
The informational text “The Legacy of Charles R. Drew” explores the life and accomplishments of Charles R. Drew, an African American doctor who made incredible contributions to the field of medicine.
Introduce this text after students have completed the chapter “A Determined Pair,” and ask students to compare the stance that both Robinson and Drew took against the Army. How did both men stand up for the principles they believed in? What challenges did they face from the Army? How did their personal beliefs also represent their African American community?
In "Tuskegee Airmen," Jessica McBirney focuses on the group of African-American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, who were were critical to the success of the U.S. Army during World War II and whose accomplishments led to the desegregation of the military.
Introduce this text after students have completed “A Determined Pair” in order to provide further context on the Airmen that Sharon Robinson references in the book. Ask students to consider the legacy that Black people like Jackie Robinson and the Tuskegee Airmen made within the military.
High school football is an intense sport. Does that mean that girls shouldn’t be allowed to play? In this 2013 article by journalist Josh Bean, locals in the Alabama community weigh in on this debate.
Introduce this text after students have completed “1945: A Changing World.” Ask students to compare the issue of Black people within Major League baseball with the contemporary debate about girls playing football. In what way are the two issues similar and different?
William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) was an English poet, critic, and editor. His best known poem is “Invictus,” published in 1875, which he wrote just following the amputation of his foot due to tuberculosis.
Introduce this text after students have read “Why My Father?” in order to use the poem to conduct a cross-text analysis. How are both Jackie Robinson and the speaker in Henley’s poem “masters of their own fate?” What other passages can be used to describe how Jackie Robinson felt sitting in Branch Rickey’s office?
Ernest Lawrence Thayer (1863-1940) was an American writer and poet, best known for this poem. It is considered a classic in sports-related literature and perhaps the most famous baseball poem ever written. In it, an arrogant player steps up to the plate with the weight of the game on his shoulders.
Introduce this text before students read “Play Ball!” Ask students to contrast what they know of Jackie Robinson so far with what they know about Casey. How do the two ball players’ attitudes differ? Consider the responsibility that Casey carries on his shoulders. How does this compare to the responsibility that Robinson carries as he goes into the Major League? What other aspects from Thayer’s poem can we use to contrast to the experiences that Jackie Robinson will face in Major League baseball?
Published in 1916, this poem is one of the most frequently cited and most misunderstood of Frost’s poems.
Introduce this text after students have read the chapter “Play Ball” and ask them to use the imagery within Frost’s poem to analyze Robinson’s experiences in this chapter. What other road could Robinson have taken? How has Robinson, like the speaker in Frost’s poem, taken the road less travelled by?
This informational text outlines Dr. King’s accomplishments and leadership in America.
Introduce this text before students begin reading “A Civil Rights Champion,” in order for students to compare and contrast the different ways that Black role models pushed for the civil rights of African Americans. Have students read the text and compare the different ways that both King Jr. and Robinson dedicated themselves to pushing for civil rights. How did Robinson use his celebrity as a former baseball player to stand up for civil rights? What are the similarities that Robinson shared with King Jr. both during and after his career as a baseball player?