Jackie Robinson, on being raised by a single mother

Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey, wife Rachel and mother Millie

“As I grew older, I often thought about the courage it took for my mother to break away from the South. Even though there appeared to be little future for us in the West, my mother knew that there she could be assured of the basic necessities. When she left the South, she also left most of her relatives and friends. She knew that her brother in California would help all he could, but he, too, had heavy responsibilities.

After a long, tedious train ride across the country, we were generously received by Uncle Burton. He took us in, but my mother made arrangements to move soon after we arrived because we were too crowded. Almost immediately, she found a job washing and ironing. She didn’t make enough, however, to support herself and five children and she went to welfare for relief. Her salary, plus the help from welfare, barely enabled her to make ends meet. Sometimes there were only two meals a day, and some days we wouldn’t have eaten at all if it hadn’t been for the leftovers my mother was able to bring her home from her job. There was other times when we subsisted on bread and sweet water. My mother got up before daylight to go to her job, and although she came home tired, she managed to give us the extra attention we needed. She indoctrinated us with the importance of family unity, religion, and kindness to others. Her great dream for us was that we go to school…

I remember, even as a small boy, having a lot of pride in my mother. I thought she must have some kind of magic to be able to do all the things she did, to work so hard and never complain and make us all feel happy.”

– Jackie Robinson

Note: Jackie and his siblings were raised by a single mother after his father abandoned the family shortly after Jackie was born. In this photograph, Jackie is pictured with Branch Rickey, his wife Rachel, and his mother Millie, as they celebrate his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Sources: I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson, Moneta Sleet, Jr./Ebony Collection.