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Jackie Robinson's Centennial Celebrated at Two NYC Museums

February 26, 2019 - by Merrill Lee Girardeau
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A legendary New Yorker is receiving retrospectives at two museums this year. Baseball giant and civil rights activist Jackie Robinson will covered at a Museum of the City of New York exhibition as well as his own namesake museum in honor of his centennial. Read on for a brief biography of the American hero and a synopsis of his exhibition and museum.

Jackie Robinson Centennial in NYC: Background

A game-changing athlete, Jackie Robinson was Major League Baseball's first African-American player and helped lead the Brooklyn Dodgers to their first World Series Championship in 1955. The first black player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Robinson’s singular contribution to the sport was signified when the MLB retired his number, 42, from use for all teams. Robinson broke through barriers not only in sports but in the business world and with his tireless advocacy for civil rights.

Jackie Robinson

Robinson was born January 31, 1919, and raised in Pasadena, California. During his stint in the army, Robinson refused to sit in the back of a segregated military bus and was court-martialed and honorably discharged for this defiant gesture. On April 15, 1957, he would become the first black player in baseball’s Major Leagues.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote of Robinson: “back in the days when integration wasn’t fashionable, he underwent the trauma and the humiliation and the loneliness which comes with being a pilgrim walking the lonesome byways toward the high road of Freedom. He was a sit-inner before the sit-ins, a freedom rider before the Freedom Rides.”

After nine years with the Dodgers, Robinson had accomplished a .311 batting average, 137 home runs, and 197 stolen bases, in addition to honors like MLB Most Valuable Player Award and the World Series championship. Not to mention, he single-handedly integrated the sport.

Robinson went on to serve as Vice President for Personnel at Chock full o’Nuts and sports analyst on television. He would often leverage his fame to bring attention to civil rights issues and spoke at the March on Washington in 1963 alongside his friend Martin Luther King. Robinson also established a bank for the black community, the Freedom National Bank of Harlem, and the Jackie Robinson Construction Company, which provided low-income housing to families in need.

Robinson died of diabetes in 1972 at 53 years old. His wife Rachel has continued her husband’s construction company and established the Jackie Robinson Foundation to honor his legacy. His life is a testament to his own belief that “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Jackie Robinson Centennial in NYC: MCNY Exhibition

In honor of Robinson’s centennial, In the Dugout with Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait of a Baseball Legend examines him through rarely-seen black-and-white photographs taken for Look magazine. Memorabilia, other magazine coverage, and footage of the Robinson family are also on view at this exhibition, on now at the Museum of the City New York on the Upper East Side. On view through September 15. 1200 Fifth Ave., 212-534-1672, mcny.org

Jackie Robinson Centennial in NYC: The Jackie Robinson Museum

Coming to Tribeca, the Jackie Robinson Museum will offer an even deeper look into the life of the baseball legend. The primary exhibition will involve an interactive timeline of Robinson’s life and achievements, in addition to his present-day legacy on American society. Kids and adults can take away inspiring lessons from Robinson’s tenacity and perseverance. Artifacts on view will include athletic uniforms, Jackie’s 1949 Major League Baseball MVP award, and his NAACP Spingarn Medal, awarded in 1956. Kids can even slide into home plate in a virtual baseball feature.

Jackie Robinson Museum

The museum experience is designed to foster communication between adults and children about social concerns like inclusion, human rights, and voting—as well as dialogue between adult visitors about these issues and Robinson’s mighty example.

The Jackie Robinson Museum will also offer public programs like field trip facilitation, professional development, workshops, and talks. Historical archives relevant to Robinson will be available for research on-site at the museum as well.

An opening date has not yet been announced, but the museum debut is expected sometime in 2019. Check the link below for further developments. 75 Varick St., 212-290-8600, jackierobinsonmuseum.org

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