Jackie Robinson Museum Focuses on Civil Rights and Baseball
Jackie Robinson’s household residence in Stamford, Conn., had a den that includes trophies, artifacts and a big scrapbook commemorating his many achievements. David Robinson, his son, fondly recalled in an interview how one wall held photographs and plaques depicting his father’s success in sports activities. Another wall — with a set twice as large — highlighted his father’s social activism, one thing of far larger significance to Jackie Robinson and his household.
The ethos evoked in that den, emphasizing social activism over sports activities, is carried on, together with lots of the similar artifacts, to a brand new museum in Lower Manhattan devoted to the legacy of probably the most essential figures in American historical past.
The new Jackie Robinson Museum — New York City’s first museum devoted largely to the civil rights motion — will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday and open its doorways to the general public on Sept. 5, permitting guests to soak within the legacies of Robinson and his widow, Rachel, in a a lot bigger, modernized model of the household den, with the identical spirit of utilizing sports activities as a automobile to advertise social progress.
“But the gathering is a thousand occasions greater,” mentioned David Robinson, who lives in Tanzania however was in New York for his mom’s birthday and the opening of the museum. “Some of the issues we grew up with now have large historic significance, and the museum is a spot for everybody to see it, and a lot, far more. It shall be a marvel of contemporary data supply.”
Rachel Robinson, who turned 100 final week, will reduce the ribbon on an establishment she has lengthy envisioned as a middle for folks to study concerning the brave work her husband did, hand in hand along with her, to assist remodel American society by way of the mixing of Major League Baseball, and many different ventures.
Jackie Robinson, who had been a younger star with the Kansas City Monarchs within the Negro leagues, broke the colour barrier within the white main leagues on April 15, 1947, when he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League. He instantly grew to become an emblem for the hope of racial equality within the United States, however as museumgoers will uncover, Robinson’s tireless work to tear down boundaries started lengthy earlier than then. And they continued lengthy after he retired as a participant following the 1956 season.
Visitors will see that whereas Robinson was within the navy throughout World War II, he efficiently pushed for Black troopers to be allowed into an officer coaching program, which he accomplished in 1943 and emerged as a Second Lieutenant. They will learn the way, after Robinson retired from baseball, he broke boundaries in promoting, broadcasting and enterprise, how he began a financial institution to assist Black residents, so typically excluded from fundamental loans, safe capital.
They may also be impressed, the museum’s organizers hope, by his and Rachel’s work alongside many pillars of the civil rights motion, together with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Whitney Young, folks David Robinson remembers visiting together with his mother and father on the home in Stamford.
“It was such an essential interval of historical past that the museum encapsulates,” David Robinson mentioned. “If we do not have a remembrance of that battle, we lose contact with a major interval of American historical past that may assist information us at this time and it’s a tribute to all of the individuals who have taken my mom’s want and made it occur.”
One of these folks is Della Britton, the tireless president and chief govt of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a nonprofit group began by Rachel Robinson to proceed her husband’s legacy by way of schooling and college scholarships for 242 college students annually.
The museum has already began on-line packages with faculties throughout the nation and, in sync with Rachel Robinson’s final purpose, hopes to grow to be a beacon that can encourage and help the subsequent wave of leaders within the struggle for social justice.
“When we first undertook this mission to construct the museum, Rachel instructed me, ‘I do not need it to easily be a shrine to Jack, I need it to be a spot that brings folks collectively and continues the dialogue round essentially the most tough problem of our society, then and now, which is race relations.’” Britton mentioned. “That is what has saved me right here the final 18 years. And as we have developed politically throughout that point, it appears much more compelling and extra essential.”
Getting the museum up and operating has been a problem. Funding points courting again to the monetary disaster of 2008, adopted ultimately by the pandemic and subsequent worldwide supply-chain issues, Britton mentioned, pressured the museum to delay the opening for years. The basis raised $38 million of the $42 million it sought to construct the museum, of which $25 million went to capital funding for building.
Now, the museum is lastly able to open, full with 4,500 artifacts and 40,000 historic pictures. It options greater than 8,000 sq. toes of everlasting exhibition area in a primary location on the border of TriBeCa, and one other 3,500 sq. toes for classroom area and a gallery.
A research performed on behalf of the museum in 2018 estimated between 100,000 and 120,000 guests per 12 months, Britton mentioned, however the museum is bracing for extra, particularly since there’s at the moment no different museum prefer it in New York.
“In a metropolis the place Lady Liberty welcomes you, there isn’t any different civil rights museum,” Britton mentioned. “That is important.” The museum boasts a compelling assortment of artifacts and reveals that join Robinson’s athletic success to his pioneering civil rights work. Visitors will be capable to see the letters he exchanged with Branch Rickey, the Dodgers president and basic supervisor who initially signed Robinson, that mirror their advanced relationship.
They also can find out about a few of Robinson’s associates and allies, together with Ralph Branca, the Dodgers pitcher who was the primary teammate to befriend Robinson, and Hank Greenberg, a Jewish slugger for the Detroit Tigers who skilled antisemitism in baseball and was the primary opposing participant to supply phrases of help and encouragement to Robinson. There is an exhibit on John Wright, a lesser-known Negro leagues pitcher whom Rickey signed three months after he signed Robinson. Along with Robinson, Wright was the sufferer of withering racist abuse within the minor leagues. He ultimately returned to the Homestead Grays with out having had the possibility to interrupt in with the Dodgers.
The museum has additionally secured a uniform and bat that Robinson utilized in 1947, his Rookie of the Year Award, his National League Most Valuable Player Award from 1949, his authentic Hall of Fame plaque, his Presidential Medal of Freedom and many different gadgets.
Each day, an digital ribbon marque will provide a query of the day for guests and college teams to generate conversations about race.
“It might be one thing like, ‘Was Colin Kaepernick proper to take a knee through the nationwide anthem?'” Britton mentioned. “The thought is to start out a dialog and get folks pondering.”
Britton and the household will host the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, and company will embrace the pioneering tennis star Billie Jean King; the filmmaker Spike Lee; Eric Holder, the previous lawyer basic of the United States; the previous gamers CC Sabathia and Willie Randolph; and John Branca, a board member and the nephew of Ralph Branca.
During a current tour, Britton highlighted lots of the museum’s distinctive options, together with a three-dimensional Ebbets Field that highlights the place lots of Robinson’s achievements occurred, but additionally issues just like the hot-dog stand the place Rachel Robinson warmed milk bottles for Jackie Robinson, Jr., their eldest son, who handed away in 1971.
David Robinson, who was born in 1952, was too younger to recollect his father’s enjoying days. His fondest recollections revolve round household dinners, fishing journeys and particularly golf, the place David beloved to caddy for his father.
“We performed the place we may, in segregated, discriminatory Connecticut,” David recalled. “He may solely be the visitor of a European at these golf golf equipment. But we traveled to the Caribbean, Spain. It was a whole lot of enjoyable to be round.”
Other essential recollections included the gatherings at residence with different civil rights leaders, and vigorous dialogue about methods to enhance the lives of tens of millions of Americans — the central theme the museum endeavors to convey. In that method, David, his sister Sharon and their mom imagine Jackie Robinson would have seen the museum as an essential extension of a shared legacy.
“Very hardly ever would he say, ‘I,'” David Robinson recalled. “He would say, ‘We did some nice issues.’ But I feel he could be thrilled to have his accomplishments showcased by way of the American evolution, to attempt and encourage motion at this time.”