It’s that time of the year when we honor Jackie Robinson for breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball in the twentieth century. While he appreciated the sentiment, Robinson often recalled he was not the only black pioneer in sports, and he frequently paid tribute to his predecessor and friend — boxing champ Joe Louis.
Robinson said in 1954:
“I certainly feel that the path for me and others to the big leagues was made easier by the performance and conduct of Joe Louis both in and out of the ring. All of us should give Joe a pat on the back for creating a favorable atmosphere.”
Sports enthusiasts at the time would have understood that Robinson was thanking “the Brown Bomber” for not acting like the first black heavyweight boxing champ — the ever-defiant Jack Johnson. A flamboyant character, Jackson flaunted his wealth, dated and married white women, and made no apologies along the way.
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