Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Race and Society in Professional Baseball: 1880s-1972
Kurtis D. Werner
American History
Time Frame:
2 class periods of 60 minutes
Jackie Robinson
Analyzing Primary Sources

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

There will be cooperative learning as students will be working in groups of 4-5 and analyzing secondary sources concerning Cap Anson and primary sources from after Jackie Robinson's playing days. Students will be evaluating written documents, photographs, cartoons, posters, maps, and artifacts.

  • Our nations' pastime was tainted with racial bigotry until 1947. Students need to understand the circumstances of society during the time period in the nineteenth century and some of the major societal leaders of the time that made integration in professional baseball impossible and also the courageous leadership for African-Americans by Jackie Robinson. Glossing over issues of race in the classroom or pretending that they do not exist does not accord with what it is much healthier for everyone when race can be freely discussed.
  • District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

    • This lesson correlates to the National Standards for United States History:

    Era 9, standard 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties

    • Standards in Historical Thinking 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation
    • Standards in Historical Thinking 4: Historical Research Capabilities
    • Standards in Historical Thinking 5: Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-making

    Missouri Standards

     2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

    6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

    7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)


    Kansas Standards

    Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the Cold War (1945-1990).

    7.(K) examines the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil rights (e.g., Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Little Rock Nine, Martin Luther King, Jr., Montgomery Bus Boycott, Voting Rights Act of 1965, Betty Friedan, NOW, ERA, Title IX).

    Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

    1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

    2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in United States history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.

    Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
    Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
    Technology Required:

    Computer Lab

    Full description of activity or assignment.
    • Students will be placed into groups of 4-5 in the classroom to analyze two articles:
    1. The students will read:
    1. The students will read:
    • Students who are higher achievers will have a chance to get through the entirety of the Cap Anson article while lower achievers will have a chance to get the basic argument behind Cap Anson through the Library of Congress article.
    • After reading the article, students will be assigned a list of questions to analyze on race and society during the time period (see the following pages). Students should have adequate time to discuss the questions in their groups. (10 minutes)
    • Students should come together as a class and discuss the questions together. (20 minutes)
    • A computer lab will be needed for the second day of the lesson.
    • The next day, students should begin analyzing primary sources concerning what made Jackie Robinson such an outstanding and courageous individual when breaking the color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. (30 minutes)


    • Students will pick two of the six primary source document analysis sheets written documents, (written documents, photographs, cartoons, posters, maps, and artifacts) and complete the sheets in class. (30 minutes)

    Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
    • The students can be assessed according to what they have to offer in discussion, or a teacher could do written responses to the six questions concerning Cap Anson. -10 points
    • The students can be accessed for completion concerning the Teaching With Documents: Beyond the Playing Field - Jackie Robinson, Civil Rights Advocate-10 points

    Name Amount of Conversation During the Discussion Significance of Conversation During Discussion

    Questions to analyze from the articles: "Baseball, the Color Line, and Jackie Robinson" and The Life and Times of Adrian "Cap" Anson


    1. Is it unfair to make Anson the exclusive scapegoat for the color line in baseball during the time period of the 1880s? Justify your opinion.

    1. For those that were able to get through the first part of the "The Life and Times of Adrian "Cap" Anson, explain Cap Anson's upbringing. How did this impact his racism?

    1. In your opinion, does he have any redeeming encounters with African-Americans?

    1. Do his achievements on the playing field and coaching overshadow his racist connotations? Why? Why not?


    1. Should Cap Anson be banned from the Hall of Fame? Justify your answer.

    1. Analyze the author's statement from "The Life and Times of Adrian "Cap" Anson: "In the end, Anson should be remembered as a talented, yet flawed individual, a relic of the times."