ON THIS DATE in 1938, eighteen-year-old Jackie Robinson was arrested after exchanging words with a white policeman in Pasadena, California. The incident is often cited as an early example of Robinson’s aggressive opposition to bigotry.
The confrontation occurred after Robinson and a friend, Jonathan Nolan, sang a popular song titled “Flat Foot Floogie” after leaving a Pasadena movie theater. A policeman took offense (flat floot was a term for cops) and confronted the two. Some sources say the officer verbally abused Nolan, causing Robinson to raise his voice to the policeman. The multi-sport star at Pasadena Junior College spent a night in jail and received a two-year suspended sentence.
The police “didn’t regard Jack as a rabble-rouser,” said Hank Shatford, a student at the Pasadena college. “It’s just that Jack would not take any stuff from them, and they knew it. Frankly, some of them were bigots then. Jack never wanted to be regarded as a second-class citizen. He rebelled at the thought of anybody putting him down, or putting any of his people down. He wanted equality.”