Integration in Hindsight

It is worth noting that Robinson’s move to the major league became viewed in a more overwhelmingly positive light with time. As nostalgia set in and our country embraced integration and civil rights more openly, people remembered themselves welcoming Robinson with open arms. In many cases, this may not have been totally true at the time.

For example, a Dodgers’ fan interviewed for a documentary on the Dodgers suggested that Brooklyn’s diverse communities quickly accepted Robinson because they were accustomed to meeting people who looked, sounded and acted different they did. In fact, most modern interviews suggest that all of Brooklyn embraced Robinson. While Brooklyn was diverse, African-Americans were still segregated to certain neighborhoods and most communities were defined and restricted by ethnic origin. Tensions between races and ethnicities still played a major role in the borough’s social dynamic.

This is not to say that those who recall the event fondly are wrong. In fact a 1947 New York Times article noted that the atmosphere at Robinson’s first game was a warm one. But, to suggest that Brooklyn wholly embraced diversity and saw itself as united is problematic.

This collective move toward a more rosy memory tells us a lot about the way we have changed as a society. In 1947, many people were unsure of or even opposed to integration. Today, it is clear that integration was a necessary and positive step toward equality.  Our memories have evolved to celebrate the event we now see as wholly positive, thereby symbolizing the importance of this event.

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