Department of Communication
Public Address Conference
David Naze

Kansas City, Congress, and Cooperstown: Re-Remembering the Cultural Legacy of Jackie Robinson

The topic of baseball’s color barrier has long been discussed, researched, and published on, and Jackie Robinson is, not surprisingly, typically the prologue to most conversations about such a topic. In essence, this project is interested in understanding how Jackie Robinson is remembered more than half a century after the height of his popularity, and will focus on what is included in Robinson’s contemporary legacy and what is excluded. The overarching project utilizes the concept of memory from the perspective that memory should be rooted in social critique rather than understood as merely a static, fixed object of study. This project looks at Jackie Robinson the political advocate and public speaker, particularly how his public voice gave shape to the ways in which African Americans, both athletes and non-athletes alike, were viewed within their own culture and mainstream society. The Negro Leagues, a prosperous and profitable institution on its own terms, has often taken a backseat to Jackie Robinson within the context of Major League Baseball’s integration narrative. The legacy of Jackie Robinson that gets privileged more than others is one that erases, or excludes, the devastating consequences Robinson’s integration had on the Negro Leagues. My charge, both as a rhetorical critic and frankly as a baseball fan, is to broaden that narrow focus and, if nothing else, expand that paragraph to a new chapter. This dissertation examines the complexities of Robinson’s political persona and dissects the ways in which his legacy is more relevant today than ever before.

David Naze
Indiana University 

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