A Field of Dreams: The Jackie Robinson Ballpark

Cover of the Jackie Robinson Ballpark TwHP lesson
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball at the Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach, Florida

(Featured illustration courtesy Library of Congress)

Download Lesson Plan (PDF)

Contents

| Introduction
| Where it Fits Into the Curriculum (Objectives and Standards)
| Materials in the Lesson (Readings, Maps, Visual Evidence)
| Post-Lesson Activities
| More Resources
| About

Who was Jackie Robinson, what was Jim Crow, and how can a baseball stadium explain both? What role does culture play in U.S. Civil Rights?

Daytona Beach’s City Island baseball stadium is a magical place. Not as large or new as other minor league parks, but on a steamy summer night, thousands revel in its cool ocean breeze, delight in twinkling marina lights, inhale the scent of ballpark hot dogs, and jump when crack! Bat meets ball.

Yet, what makes this historic field’s baseball diamond shine brighter than any other in the United States is its heritage: it was at this place that the dream of racial equality in baseball took a great leap toward reality.

On March 17, 1946, African American rookie hitter Jackie Robinson played at City Island’s ballpark on a mixed-race team against an all-white team. This was a first in professional baseball since the 1800s. There were thousands of spectators, including nearly a thousand African American fans seated in a segregated section. Robinson smashed a barrier for sports that day and was thrust into the nation’s consciousness as a symbol of Jim Crow’s demise.

Robinson went on to become Rookie of the Year in 1947 and a World Series player in 1955. He starred as himself in the dramatized version of his life, The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), played ball for 11 years, and became a Civil Rights era activist. He worked for that cause until his early death in 1972. In the 1990s, the ballpark was renamed in his honor and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Where it Fits into the Curriculum

This lesson can be used in U.S. history, social studies, and other curricula that examine African American history and civil rights in the United States following World War II.

Time Period: Mid-20th Century, Civil Rights Era

Objectives

1. To describe the effects of Jim Crow and explain how African Americans were discriminated against in the early 20th Century;
2. To explain how and why segregation in Daytona Beach might be seen as less severe than in other parts of Florida;
3. To describe who Jackie Robinson was and what he accomplished;
4. To compare and contrast the treatment of Jackie Robinson in Dayton with other ballparks in segregated towns.
5. To plan and conduct a local history project related to African American history and/or Civil Rights.


National History and Social Studies Standards

This lesson relates to the UCLA National Center for History in the Schools National History Standards:

US History Era 9, Standard 4A: The student understands the “Second Reconstruction” and its advancement of civil rights.

This lesson relates to Thematic Strands from the National Council for the Social Studies' National Standards:

Theme I: Culture
• Theme II: Time, Continuity, and Change
Theme III: People, Places, and Environments
Theme IV: Individual Development and Identity
Theme V: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Theme VI: Power, Authority, and Governance
Theme X: Civic Ideals and Practices

See the Full Lesson (PDF) for details about how the these Standards and Themes relate to the lesson. Search our Lesson Plans by National History Standards or Lesson Plans by Social Studies Standards to identify lessons that correspond with the eras and themes you want to teach.

Materials Found in the Full Lesson

Accompanying Question Sets are paired with all materials in the Full Lesson (PDF).

• Setting the Stage: This short-essay with background information is intended for the teacher's reference, to use in a lecture or answer questions students might have during the lesson.

• Getting Started: This image and short question is intended to jump-start students' "inner historian."
Image: Lobby Card Photo, Robinson and Rickey Interview (JPG, TIF)

• Locating the Site: Maps orient the students and encourage them to think about how place affects culture and society.
Map 1: Daytona, Florida, Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, 1919 (JPG,TIF)
Map 2: Aerial Photographic Map, Daytona Beach, Florida, March 13, 1958 (JPG, TIF)

• Determining the Facts: Primary and secondary source readings for students.
Reading 1: Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, and the “Noble Experiment”.
Reading 2: Jim Crow and Jackie Robinson.
Reading 3: City Island Ballpark: A Field of Dreams.
Reading 4: Robinson’s Legacy, On and Off the Field.
• Visual Evidence: Photos and other documents for students to examine. Select JPG for standard size or TIF to download a larger file. Download the Full Lesson (PDF) to access the Question Sets for each image.

Photo 1: Aerial view of City Island Ballpark, circa 1930s.
Illustration 1: “Lobby Card” Advertisement for the Movie, The Jackie Robinson Story, 1950.

(JPG, TIF)

(Source: Florida Photographic Collection)

(JPG, TIF)

(Source: Library of Congress)
Illustration 2: Front Cover of Jackie Robinson Comic Book, 1951.
Photo 2: Daytona Cubs vs. Brevard County Manatees, at Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach, April 6, 2013.
(JPG, TIF)

(Source: Library of Congress)
(JPG, TIF)

(Source: Wikimedia Contributor, Gamweb)
Photo 3: Statue of Jackie Robinson at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, 2007.

(JPG, TIF)

(Source: Jean West)

"Putting it all Together" Activities

Download the Full Lesson (PDF) to access these post-lesson activities. These are intended to deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.

  • Activity 1: Hold a Jackie Robinson Memorial Game
  • Activity 2: Players for a Cause, in Your Community
  • Activity 3: African American Heritage in Your State
More Resources Online

Jackie Robinson Ballpark and Museum
The Daytona Cubs, affiliated with the Chicago Cubs, play at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. Their website includes a history of the ballpark, photographs, tour and schedule information.

Library of Congress
The Library of Congress has an online exhibit on Baseball and Jackie Robinson, available at its website here. The exhibit includes a timeline and essays about baseball and segregation.

The National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archives reaches out to teachers with its excellent Digital Classroom web feature, which includes generic document worksheets for written documents, cartoons, photographs, maps, artifacts, posters, and sound recordings.

In addition to its Teaching with Documents "Beyond the Playing Field" lesson plan, which focuses on Jackie Robinson as a civil rights advocate after leaving baseball, there are additional lessons with documents about desegregation, including the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
The FBI collected several files on Jackie Robinson in connection with his activity in the Civil Rights movement and also in relationship to baseball, including a personal threat if he helped the Dodgers win the pennant.

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Jackie Robinson’s feature page at the National Baseball Hall of Fame website includes video clips demonstrating his playing style, biographical information, a 1996 interview with Branch Rickey’s talent scout (Clyde Sukeforth), and text of Robinson’s induction speech from 1962 into the Hall of Fame.

Major League Baseball
Visit Major League Baseball’s website to view the statistics of Jackie Robinson’s major league career.

The Jackie Robinson Foundation
Rachel Robinson established the Jackie Robinson Foundation in memory of her husband. Its mission is to advance higher education among underserved populations by providing scholarships, internships, and related opportunities. Visit the Foundation website to find out more.

About this lesson

This lesson is based on the National Register of Historic Places registration files for Jackie Robinson Ballpark, formerly known as Daytona City Island Ballpark, (with photos) and other sources. Jean West, an education consultant, wrote this lesson. It was edited by staff at the National Park Service Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation & Education. This lesson is one in a series that brings the important stories of historic places into classrooms across the country.

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