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Jackie Robinson Museum Focuses on Civils Rights and Baseball


Jackie Robinson’s family home in Stamford, Conn., had a den featuring trophies, artifacts and an enormous scrapbook commemorating his many achievements. David Robinson, his son, fondly recalled in an interview how one wall held photos and plaques depicting his father’s success in sports. One other wall — with a set twice as big — highlighted his father’s social activism, something of far greater significance to Jackie Robinson and his family.

The ethos evoked in that den, emphasizing social activism over sports, is carried on, together with lots of the same artifacts, to a latest museum in Lower Manhattan dedicated to the legacy of one of the necessary figures in American history.

The brand new Jackie Robinson Museum — Recent York City’s first museum dedicated largely to the civil rights movement — will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday and open its doors to the general public on Sept. 5, allowing visitors to soak within the legacies of Robinson and his widow, Rachel, in a much larger, modernized version of the family den, with the identical spirit of using sports as a vehicle to advertise social progress.

“But the gathering is a thousand times larger,” said David Robinson, who lives in Tanzania but was in Recent York for his mother’s birthday and the opening of the museum. “Among the things we grew up with now have huge historical significance, and the museum is a spot for everybody to see it, and far, way more. It would be a marvel of contemporary information delivery.”

Rachel Robinson, who turned 100 last week, will cut the ribbon on an establishment she has long envisioned as a middle for people to learn in regards to the courageous work her husband did, hand in hand together with her, to assist transform American society via the mixing of Major League Baseball, and lots of other ventures.

Jackie Robinson, who had been a young star with the Kansas City Monarchs within the Negro leagues, broke the colour barrier within the white major leagues on April 15, 1947, when he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League. He immediately became a logo for the hope of racial equality in america, but as museumgoers will discover, Robinson’s tireless work to tear down barriers began long before then. They usually continued long after he retired as a player following the 1956 season.

Visitors will see that while Robinson was within the military during World War II, he successfully pushed for Black soldiers to be allowed into an officer training program, which he accomplished in 1943 and emerged as a Second Lieutenant. They are going to find out how, after Robinson retired from baseball, he broke barriers in promoting, broadcasting and business, how he began a bank to assist Black residents, so often excluded from basic loans, secure capital.

They may also be inspired, the museum’s organizers hope, by his and Rachel’s work alongside many pillars of the civil rights movement, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Whitney Young, people David Robinson remembers visiting along with his parents at the home in Stamford.

“It was such a vital period of history that the museum encapsulates,” David Robinson said. “If we don’t have a remembrance of that struggle, we lose touch with a big period of American history that can assist guide us today and it’s a tribute to all of the individuals who have taken my mother’s desire and made it occur.”

One among those people is Della Britton, the tireless president and chief executive of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a nonprofit organization began by Rachel Robinson to proceed her husband’s legacy through education and university scholarships for 242 students every year.

The museum has already begun online programs with schools across the country and, in sync with Rachel Robinson’s ultimate goal, hopes to turn out to be a beacon that may encourage and support the following wave of leaders within the fight for social justice.

“After we first undertook this mission to construct the museum, Rachel told me, ‘I don’t want it to easily be a shrine to Jack, I need it to be a spot that brings people together and continues the dialogue around probably the most difficult issue of our society, then and now, which is race relations.’” Britton said. “That’s what has kept me here the last 18 years. And as we’ve evolved politically during that point, it seems much more compelling and more necessary.”

Getting the museum up and running has been a challenge. Funding issues dating back to the financial crisis of 2008, followed eventually by the pandemic and subsequent worldwide supply-chain problems, Britton said, forced the museum to delay the opening for years. The muse raised $38 million of the $42 million it sought to construct the museum, of which $25 million went to capital investment for construction.

Now, the museum is finally able to open, complete with 4,500 artifacts and 40,000 historical images. It features greater than 8,000 square feet of everlasting exhibition space in a chief location on the border of TriBeCa, and one other 3,500 square feet for classroom space and a gallery.

A study conducted on behalf of the museum in 2018 estimated between 100,000 and 120,000 visitors per 12 months, Britton said, however the museum is bracing for more, especially since there may be currently no other museum prefer it in Recent York.

“In a city where Lady Liberty welcomes you, there isn’t a other civil rights museum,” Britton said. “That is important.” The museum boasts a compelling collection of artifacts and exhibits that connect Robinson’s athletic success to his pioneering civil rights work. Visitors will have the option to see the letters he exchanged with Branch Rickey, the Dodgers president and general manager who originally signed Robinson, that reflect their complex relationship.

They also can find out about a few of Robinson’s friends and allies, including Ralph Branca, the Dodgers pitcher who was the primary teammate to befriend Robinson, and Hank Greenberg, a Jewish slugger for the Detroit Tigers who experienced antisemitism in baseball and was the primary opposing player to supply words of support and encouragement to Robinson. There’s an exhibit on John Wright, a lesser-known Negro leagues pitcher whom Rickey signed three months after he signed Robinson. Together with Robinson, Wright was the victim of withering racist abuse within the minor leagues. He eventually returned to the Homestead Grays without having had the possibility to interrupt in with the Dodgers.

The museum has also secured a uniform and bat that Robinson utilized in 1947, his Rookie of the 12 months Award, his National League Most Invaluable Player Award from 1949, his original Hall of Fame plaque, his Presidential Medal of Freedom and lots of other items.

Every day, an electronic ribbon marque will offer an issue of the day for visitors and college groups to generate conversations about race.

“It might be something like, ‘Was Colin Kaepernick right to take a knee throughout the national anthem?’” Britton said. “The thought is to begin a conversation and get people considering.”

Britton and the family will host the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, and guests will include the pioneering tennis star Billie Jean King; the filmmaker Spike Lee; Eric Holder, the previous attorney general of america; the previous players C.C. Sabathia and Willie Randolph; and John Branca, a board member and the nephew of Ralph Branca.

During a recent tour, Britton highlighted lots of the museum’s unique features, including a three-dimensional Ebbets Field that highlights where lots of Robinson’s achievements took place, but additionally things just like the hot-dog stand where Rachel Robinson warmed milk bottles for Jackie Robinson, Jr., their eldest son, who passed away in 1971.

David Robinson, who was born in 1952, was too young to recollect his father’s playing days. His fondest memories revolve around family dinners, fishing trips and particularly golf, where David loved to caddy for his father.

“We played where we could, in segregated, discriminatory Connecticut,” David recalled. “He could only be the guest of a European at those golf clubs. But we traveled to the Caribbean, Spain. It was loads of fun to be around.”

Other necessary memories included the gatherings at home with other civil rights leaders, and vigorous discussion over ways to enhance the lives of thousands and thousands of Americans — the central theme the museum endeavors to convey. In that way, David, his sister Sharon and their mother imagine Jackie Robinson would have seen the museum as a vital extension of a shared legacy.

“Very seldom would he say, ‘I,’” David Robinson recalled. “He would say, ‘We did some great things.’ But I feel he could be thrilled to have his accomplishments showcased when it comes to the American evolution, to try and encourage motion today.”

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