A Book Review of the Book I Never Had It Made by Jackie Robinson, the First African American Baseball Player
What does this book review cover?
Jackie Robinson, the man that is known as the first African American to ever play in the Major Leagues did what he could to inform the world about the real condition of Blacks in America. In his autobiography titled I Never Had It Made, Jackie Robinson shows us that he was far more than just a baseball player that broke the color barrier. Jackie Robinson was responsible for the founding of the Freedom National Bank. He also served as Special Assistant to Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York. But why is Jackie Robinson so special? It is because he attempted to show that blacks never really had it made. His intent was to show and prove that in spite of what we have been told about being able to achieve the American Dream, blacks in the United States already have the cards stacked against them even before they start to work on improving their standing in life.
How does the book contribute to the historical and cultural understanding of the African American experience?
One of the major ways that the book tries to inform the reader about the historical and cultural understanding of the African American experience is the legacy of discrimination and prejudice that this group of people has had to endure and deal with. For instance, in the part of the book where Mr. Robinson talks about establishing Freedom National Bank, he points out the very obvious signs that blacks were being discriminated against. He says: “By and large, in the banking business, blacks were considered bad credit risks not only because of their median low income as compared to that of whites, but because of the stereotype that had existed for many years that they were not to be trusted,” (page 184). Robinson continues and further strengthens his case about how blacks already have the short end of the stick when he says: “When it came to mortgages to buy homes, business loans to enable blacks to become entrepreneurs, blacks were discriminated against,” (page 184). This discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry was even demonstrated by public officials. For instance, Jackie Robinson mentions the choice of Spiro Agnew as Vice President by Richard Nixon and the fact that the Republican Party nominated him (Nixon) for President. Robinson says that this proved the discrimination that whites had against blacks by saying: “The GOP didn’t give a damn about my vote or the votes or welfare of my people. Consequently, I could no longer justify supporting them,” (page 207). Even this example is proof of the bigotry and prejudice that many in the Republican Party had at that time and still have towards blacks.
Jackie Robinson was named the Chairman of the Board of Freedom National Bank. Why was the bank so significant and more than just a bank? This is because the bank really helped African Americans get mortgages for homes and to establish a sort of credit history for themselves. The results that the bank achieved were staggering. And Jackie Robinson mentions this when he says: “When we marked that anniversary, we had gone from the initial $1.5-million capitalization to a volume of more than $9,000,000. We had loaned more than $300,000 dollars to small businessmen,” (page 189). This means that in a span of just two years, Freedom National Bank had become a success and really helped out the group of people that it was intended to benefit.
Jackie Robinson (1919-1972)
How does Jackie Robinson try to show that Blacks never really had the best circumstances?
How does Jackie Robinson show or demonstrate in his autobiography that blacks never had it made? One such example is when Jackie Robinson mentions that there are 24 major league managers and that they are all white. Jackie Robinson then asks the question why? Then, he makes reference to what Frank Robinson says when he discusses the subject. Frank says: “There’s only one reason a Negro has never been a manager-his color. The reason there hasn’t been a Negro manager is that no one has ever given the Negro a chance to be one,” (page 264). This proves that there was deep envy and resentment in those people that fought against the advancement of blacks and did not want to see them attain positions of power. This proves that these people never wanted to give a black man a chance to do something or to become somebody even though we are always told that America is a land of opportunity. Another example that shows how blacks never had it made is when Jackie Robinson makes reference to the fact that he owes something back to his people and this country. He says: “til every man can rent and lease and buy according to his money and his desires; until every child can have an equal opportunity in youth and manhood; until hunger is not only immoral but illegal; until hatred is recognized as a disease, a scourge, an epidemic, and treated as such; until racism and sexism and narcotics are conquered and until every man can vote and any man can be elected if he qualifies-until that day Jackie Robinson and no one else can say he has it made,” (page 269). Jackie Robinson tries to point out that until the day that these various social issues are addressed and solved, we will never have a society where every man, woman, and child has an equal shot at succeeding at whatever they want to accomplish in life. This once again shows how deeply divided the United States is and how blacks have always never had the same chances as whites have had historically.
A Photo of Jackie Robinson in 1954
The meaning of the title of the book
This brings us to the next major point which is what does the title of the book mean? From the title I Never Had It Made, we can infer and suggest that blacks never had everything handed to them on a silver platter.
The meaning of the title of the book explained further
From their beginnings in Africa, to being brought to the colonies on ships, and then having to endure slavery until 1865, blacks have always been seen as inferior, less than human and never really put on the same level as whites. The title is trying to suggest and imply that if you are a black person in America, you are going to have to work much harder and endure many more obstacles and challenges compared to a white person.
Why I really liked this book
I really liked this book because based on the story that Jackie Robinson tells about his life and what he had to endure and go through, I look back on my own life and my struggles and I can see that even I went through some of the same hardships that this man went through. I could relate to him even though I am not an African American. Like Jackie Robinson, I have had to deal with being picked on, bullied, referred to as retarded, and bothered by others who were too immature to realize their shortcomings. I have had to work much harder to succeed in school and college due to the fact that I have had a sort of learning disability. And lastly, I have never had it made either because my family and I have had to work for everything that we have gotten. I have had to succeed in a country that still has a long way to go before it can call itself a nation that gives everyone an equal chance at life.
Why is this book biased?
Jackie Robinson does show some degree of bias because this book tells his story, not the story of every black man or woman in this country. Jackie Robinson discusses his life and the accomplishments that he was able to make in his lifetime. At this point, I really see nothing to dislike about the book as it is very well written. I recommend this book to anyone who really wants to understand the real condition of blacks in the United States.
Final thoughts about the book and references page
Jackie Robinson through his autobiography I Never Had It Made not only tells his life story but he also provides a deep, thoughtful, detailed account of the challenges, hardships, and struggles that many blacks in America face. Jackie Robinson shows that he was more than just a baseball player that played for the Brooklyn (now Los Angeles Dodgers). Jackie Robinson was a man that demonstrated his skills in other areas such as banking, finance, and politics. He wanted to show readers that blacks in the United States really do face a very steep, uphill climb if they want to better themselves even though we are constantly told that America is a land of opportunity where everyone can make it. For Jackie Robinson and many blacks, this statement does not totally apply because blacks have always been second class citizens in a country dominated in many ways by whites. The book is essential to read especially during the Major League Baseball season which lasts from April through September. Each year, April 15th is known throughout baseball as Jackie Robinson Day in honor of the man who is the first African American baseball player to play in the National League. Even though he died in 1972, Mr. Robinson is still admired, loved, and respected by Major League Baseball.
Duckett, Alfred, and Jackie Robinson. I Never Had It Made. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.
© 2016 Ara Vahanian