It was 1945, the year World War II ended. Another decade was still to pass before the mass civil rights movement of the 1950s began. In the South, segregation was the law of the land. In New York City, African Americans struggled daily against discrimination in employment and housing. Throughout the country, baseball, the national pastime, still had separate leagues for black and white players. And in Brooklyn, on August 28, Branch Rickey, general manager of the Dodgers, made an agreement with Negro Leagues star Jackie Robinson to play for the Dodgers’ farm team, the Montreal Royals.
Less than two years later, on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson took the field as the first black player in the major leagues since 1884. The occasion won the Dodgers notoriety and also opened to them an extraordinary roster of talent that catapulted them to the top of the National League for much of the next decade. But the “color barrier” did not crumble in a moment. It took another 12 years for the last team in the majors, the Boston Red Sox, to sign a black player.