He was born 100 years ago in a red-clay corner of Georgia, though for many Americans, Jackie Robinson burst onto the stage fully formed in 1947, a 28-year-old rookie in Dodger flannels.
That’s the enduring image, the Robinson captured on film at Ebbets Field and fixed in the national imagination: the silent but dynamic hero, broad-shouldered and trim, shattering the color barrier as he ropes another liner, dances off third or hook-slides home in a cloud of dust.
That vision of Robinson — late to the majors, but still in his playing prime — is on display in this gallery of 100 photographs honoring the centennial of his birth on Jan. 31. Many of the selections come from the archives of The New York Times, rounded out with images from other sources, such as U.C.L.A. and Ebony magazine.
As these photos make clear, Robinson’s decade in major-league baseball was just one act in a remarkably rich and complex life — one of vision, fortitude, dignity and endurance — shaped by the currents and contours of American history even as it recast them.
There was also Jackie the boy, grandson of slaves, hauled cross-country as a toddler from a life of sharecropping to the promise of Pasadena by a determined single mother, a Great Migration pioneer.
And Jackie the amateur athlete, his college exploits chronicled by a booming black press. When The Pittsburgh Courier’s Randy Dixon wrote about the injustice of a segregated sport passing up a star in 1941 — “Exhibit A in So-Called Democracy, the Case of Jackie Robinson” — he didn’t even mean baseball. Robinson had just dazzled in an exhibition between college all-stars and the Chicago Bears, outshining a roster studded with N.F.L. first-round picks.
Back then, baseball was his fourth-best sport. When Lt. Jack Roosevelt Robinson faced a court-martial for standing his ground after a civilian driver ordered him to the back of a bus at Camp (now Fort) Hood, African-American papers like The Courier identified him as a “football and basketball star” — though he was also an N.C.A.A. champ in the long jump, a certain Olympian if not for the war.