68 Years ago today – The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson
July 6, 2012 by William K. Wolfrum
On July 6, 1944, exactly one month after D-day—assault landings in which black soldiers had participated—Lieutenant Jackie Robinson was forcibly reminded of how thoroughly Jim Crow still dominated the scene. As he was returning that evening to the hospital, Southwestern Bus Company driver Milton Reneger brusquely instructed the lieutenant to move to a seat farther back from the one where he sat next to a fellow officer’s light-skinned wife. Robinson, perhaps conscious of being an officer and a husky one at that, refused, suggesting that the driver tend to driving instead.
Robinson’s sharpness of response may have been at least partially attributable to recollection of previous bus incidents at Hood and other installations regarding what blacks saw as a pattern of unfairness. As one of the 761st’s officers remembered, “There were so many problems with the bus situation that battalion commanders and the company commanders almost let us have trucks at will to go to the town . . . rather than mess with what went on with the bus.”
Later, at his stop, Robinson and the driver continued to argue, joined by the latter’s bus dispatcher, Beverly Younger, who casually referred to Robinson in his presence as “a nigger.” When military policemen arrived at the scene, a crowd of indignant whites, both civilian and military, had formed, adding to turmoil and confusion. The MPs on site, none of whom outranked the lieutenant, asked him to go with them to the police headquarters to straighten out the situation. He agreed to do so. However, when they arrived at the station to meet with the camp’s assistant provost marshal, a white MP ran up to the vehicle and excitedly inquired if they had “the nigger lieutenant” with them. The utterance of this unexpected and especially offensive racial epithet served to set Robinson off and he threatened “to break in two” anyone, whatever their rank or status, who employed that word.
Jackie Robinson went on to become the first African-American player in Major League Baseball.
You know people who are at least 68 years old. Time to stop thinking that in 2012 America is such an evolved place. We have a long way to go yet.