Hank Aaron rose to the top of baseball while facing pervasive racism. He leaves behind a powerful legacy

Aaron eyes the flight of the ball as he hit his record-breaking 715th home run on April 8, 1974. The historic moment happened in Atlanta against Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing.

(CNN)Baseball legend Hank Aaron is remembered today as one of the greatest to ever play the game. Crucial to his legacy is that unlike his White counterparts, he pulled off his most significant achievements while enduring pervasive racism.

Throughout his career, Aaron experienced hate and vitriol on and off the field for the simple fact that he was an African American.
Aaron dominated baseball at a time when part of the nation still upheld Jim Crow, a system of racial apartheid in the American South. Even after legal segregation ended, baseball fans engaged in ugly and vile tactics to remind him of what they considered to be his place in the nation's racial hierarchy.
"The same way Jackie Robinson had to go through hell to become a Major League Baseball player, Hank Aaron had to go through hell after doing one of the greatest things in the history of sports," said Peter Golenbock, author of the biography "Hank Aaron: Brave in Every Way," in an interview with CNN.
    In spite of all those obstacles, Aaron persevered -- breaking the career home run record previously set by Babe Ruth and other records that he still holds to this day. He passed away on Friday at the age of 86.
    Here's a look at the racial barriers Aaron broke, and the legacy he leaves behind.

    He faced racism on and off the field

    Aaron was born in 1934 and grew up in and around Mobile, Alabama.
    Civil rights leader Andrew Young, who said he and Aaron shared a close friendship since 1965, told CNN that the racism Aaron experienced began in childhood.
    Aaron's mother would summon him from the baseball field to come home and hide under the bed because the Ku Klux Klan was riding through the neighborhood, Young said. But he was never deterred, going right back outside to finish playing when the Klan left.
    Inspired by his idol Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era, Aaron completed brief stints in the Negro American League and the minor leagues before making his way to Major League Baseball.