MLB legend Jackie Robinson has long been the topic of book reports and school presentations for generations of students since the 1950s. But thanks to a new documentary about the baseball great on PBS, simply called Jackie Robinson, viewers are getting a chance to learn even more about one of the biggest sports icons in American history.
The first and best of his class, Jackie was not only an extraordinary athlete, but he was also very vocal about politics, and was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement.
On April 15, 1947, Jackie stepped onto first base at Brooklyn Dodgers stadium, becoming the first African-American to shatter the color barrier of baseball. As the nation celebrates Jackie Robinson Day, here are some interesting details about one of the most famous men of the outfield.
Jackie Robinson’s family members were also pioneers.
In 1919, Jackie Robinson was born to a family of sharecroppers in Cairo, Ga. When his father left the family six months after his birth, they moved to Pasadena, California, where they owned a home in a residential neighborhood – the only African-Americans in the well-to-do city. Although the family – led by Jackie’s mother, who worked a host of jobs to care for her family – faced insurmountable racism and was threatened with fires and cross burnings, Jackie and his siblings enjoyed a stable life.
His brother Mack Robinson won a silver medal in the 1936 Olympics, coming in behind Jesse Owens.
Much of the 1936 Olympics focused on runner Jesse Owens’ historic gold medal win in the 200-meter dash. But it was Jackie’s brother, Mack, who took the silver. However, life for the Olympian was nothing like what we know in modern times. There were no endorsements or high-profile positions waiting for Mack in the States. Instead, he worked as a street sweeper when he returned home. The proud athlete wore his Olympic Team jacket as he swept.
His wife Rachel Robinson called off their engagement to achieve her own goals.
#BlackGirlMagic is a shining new era for African-American millennials, but women like Rachel Robinson set the standard. Mrs. Robinson was determined to pursue her career as a nurse. She graduated from UCLA in 1945 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and received her masters from New York University in 1956. Jackie wasn’t always supportive of her goals to become a registered nurse. During that time, she returned his engagement ring and told him she would not give up her dreams. The two did marry in 1946, and since then? Mrs. Robinson became an Assistant Professor at Yale University, and the Director of Nursing at Connecticut Mental Health Center.
Jackie Robinson was the first African-American with a syndicated column in the New York Post.
Talk about groundbreaking. After he retired from baseball, Jackie was vocal about his political views. Taking notice of his influence, the NY Post offered Jackie a recurring column during the Kennedy-Nixon presidential election in 1960. Initially, Jackie was a staunch supporter of Richard Nixon, but he later praised John F. Kennedy for his stance on change during the Civil Rights Movement.
The Robinson family lived in Queens among other greats of the era.
St. Albans, Queens is known as one of the birthplaces of hip-hop, but before that time, the residential area was home to the most affluent figures of the 1950s. Jackie Robinson’s family resided in St. Albans for years. Their neighbors included Count Basie, Lena Horne…and even The Great Bambino, Babe Ruth.
Carly Simon and Jackie Robinson’s families were very close.
A total mind-blowing moment of the documentary was the amazing friendship between Carly Simon and Jackie’s families. Her family, who also founded Simon & Schuster, helped the Robinsons move to Stamford, Conn., where they were shunned simply because they were African-American. As a young girl, Simon would attend Dodgers games, and Jackie called her his “lucky charm.”
For more info on the Jackie Robinson documentary, click here.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty