Celebrating 100 years of No. 42’s widow, Rachel Robinson, and her multigenerational impression


Rachel Robinson has preserved the reminiscence and legacy of her husband, Jackie, for 50 years. She is the founding father of the Jackie Robinson Basis, a nonprofit that gives school scholarships and management coaching. Alongside her husband, who was the primary African American to play Main League Baseball within the fashionable period, she was a civil rights activist, and in her personal proper, a pioneer within the medical area. In 1961, Rachel graduated from New York College with a grasp’s diploma in psychiatric nursing. She was later the director of nursing for the Connecticut Psychological Well being Middle and an assistant professor of nursing at Yale College.

In honor of her one hundredth birthday on July 19, David Robinson, 70, the youngest of Rachel and Jackie’s three youngsters, who manages a espresso cooperative in Tanzania and is a director on the board of the Jackie Robinson Basis, in his personal phrases displays on what she instilled in him and her legacy.

After I was 6 or 7 years outdated, my mom would make up bedtime tales, and in them, I used to be a knight at King Arthur’s Spherical Desk. It was at all times concerning the drama of dealing with excessive odds for a righteous trigger. The knights would rally round the reason for justice and lift their swords in a united trend to see that justice was carried out.

I believe the imaginary dynamic she created in bedtime tales was all a part of her wanting to present her youngsters a way of energy. America in that interval was a reasonably hostile atmosphere; due to discriminatory practices within the Nineteen Fifties, it took my mom almost a 12 months of looking throughout Lengthy Island to Connecticut to discover a dwelling for our household.

She would look forward to The New York Instances each Sunday and pore over actual property listings solely to be informed our household wasn’t the “proper match” for a sure neighborhood, or that the home was now not available on the market. When the Bridgeport Herald revealed an interview with my mom as a part of a collection on housing discrimination, residents in Stamford, Connecticut, invited our household to satisfy with actual property brokers. That is how we moved to Stamford in 1954. By then, my father, Jackie Robinson, was in his eighth 12 months of enjoying for the Brooklyn Dodgers and two seasons away from retiring. Jackie Jr. was 7 years outdated, Sharon 4. I used to be 2 years outdated.

I just about grew up in semi-rural Connecticut. Our household’s dwelling was constructed on a 6-acre piece of land and surrounded by three sides of forest. On either side of the forest, there was a lake about 50 yards from our dwelling. And simply past the forest, there was a reservoir. By the point I used to be 7 or 8 years outdated, I could possibly be gone from morning till early afternoon. That is what we did as youngsters within the summertime. I spent a whole lot of time within the woods on my own fishing and roaming, however that was allowable. Each of my mother and father believed in giving me the liberty to discover and study. My father was a person of few phrases who taught by his actions of management and duty. My mom, Rachel Robinson, typically offered higher verbal explanations.

She was a scholar of psychiatry; after having one diploma already she went again to highschool and later turned a nurse. She needed to tackle the problem of studying extra about psychological well being and we had an in depth library on psychological growth, human growth and human circumstances. I could not learn the books, however simply wanting on the titles and the variety of books on these topics gave me a way that there was one thing past the floor imaginative and prescient of the world.

She took us to the theater. I noticed “Fiddler on the Roof” with Zero Mostel; I watched “Man of La Mancha” and “Golden Boy” with Sammy Davis Jr. My mom loves classical music and opera. We had a document system simply off of the lounge. There was a 6-foot cupboard with data on high and the spinner within the center. The speaker was big — two and a half by two, perhaps half a foot broad. Music was a part of our family, and rising up along with her music gave me a way of vocabulary past what was verbal. I wept at operas with out figuring out Italian or French. That is what my mom taught me.

What’s evoked in classical music and opera is past the musical. It is emotional. What’s classical music however a compilation of wind devices, string devices and percussion? It is the varied sound components coming collectively, it is the type of complexity you discover in life. Not solely do you eat and breathe, however you assume and really feel. My mom’s love for music speaks to her understanding concerning the complexity of life.

In case you’re concerned in psychiatry, it is all about therapeutic and rising higher. I believe that is what’s allowed her to keep up a way of hope and optimism. Her academic basis was based mostly on a perception in social and human evolution, from a place that these items are doable, that in lots of issues we have now made big strides.

Social activism and justice, and the function you performed in each, that was the period. It was the bread and butter; it was the air we breathed. Not a day glided by and not using a reflection or dialogue of social points. At dwelling, our mother and father tried to maintain a balanced image on the eating room desk. They needed to be uplifting. I bear in mind they might speak concerning the challenges the Freedom Riders confronted taking place by the busload to problem segregation within the South. In the summertime of 1963, my mother and father organized and hosted the primary annual “Afternoon of Jazz” at our home in Stamford to lift cash for the Southern Christian Management Convention. Dizzy Gillespie was there. So was Duke Ellington. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. got here to our dwelling. Your involvement in social growth decided who you had been and the importance you had in that point interval. That was how we lived and who we had been.

Typically the feelings ranged from anger to frustration to disappointment. Within the worst hours, when the KKK bombed sixteenth Road Baptist Church in Birmingham on Sept. 15, 1963, and killed 4 little women, there’s nothing you’ll be able to say.

My mom was utterly conscious of what she was doing when she and my father despatched me to an all-white faculty. I used to be the one African American in a non-public faculty of perhaps 400 to 600 college students. Not solely was it occurring in American society, not solely had been Jack and Rachel Robinson critically concerned every day, however they put their baby into an atmosphere the place these points could be raised.



Jackie Robinson’s oldest residing son David shares the teachings he discovered from his father.

At the moment, when my father was enjoying baseball, nobody was getting excessively wealthy and cozy on baseball salaries. My father was not making tens of millions of {dollars}. That was not the measure of time. After his enjoying profession, in 1957, my father turned vice chairman of personnel at Chock full o’ Nuts — the primary Black vice chairman of a serious American company. It is troublesome to conceive how totally different my life could be with out the household and fogeys that I grew up with. My grandmother on my father’s facet was a sharecropper in Georgia; her personal mom was born a slave. My grandfather on my mom’s facet was a soldier in World Warfare I stationed in France and was threatened to be court-martialed by the military for fraternizing with white French residents. His life was considerably shortened after being gassed within the warfare. However he instilled in my mom a way of the world and a way of self that she needed to cross on to her youngsters.

My mom needed to ensure her youngsters had a strong basis of inside energy, whether or not that was found via imaginary bedtime tales or via journey.

I first got here to Tanzania in 1967 within the firm of my mom. At that time I used to be 15 or 16 years outdated. I’ve now spent nearly all of my life right here, so you would say she performed an enormous function. My mom, father and I had been in Italy after which Spain. My father was enjoying at a golf match in Spain and when he went again to work, my mom and I went on to Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana. It was a two or three week journey, nevertheless it had a considerable impression on my life.

She launched me to globalization, international dynamics, the ancestral homeland, all and not using a sturdy Pan-African bend or political agenda. It was actually — that is the world. I do not even assume she had left the States earlier than she was in her 30s and perhaps 40s, however this was her sense of parenting.

She made a degree of permitting for a full and cozy expertise. However at night time, I bear in mind she would typically be counting the cash to guarantee that we had been coated for tomorrow and the subsequent week. That is who my mom is — the one who not solely needed to point out the imaginative and prescient, however the practicality of creating certain the assets had been there.

She is an especially clever lady, particularly in human growth and the understanding of self within the atmosphere. She had a way that this was a world her youngsters and grandchildren would inherit and inhabit. She needed them to comprehend it and to see it.

When my father built-in baseball in 1947, it took discrimination, segregation, the oppression of African Individuals out of the backwater and positioned it on our nationwide pastime, a sport during which a majority of Individuals — Black and white — had been fanatic about. It raised the extent of consideration of consciousness. He modified the nation and was a part of the motion to create change over the subsequent three a long time.

My mom has preserved his legacy for 5 a long time as a result of it is vital for our household and the African American neighborhood and American society to acknowledge and bear in mind. It’s a privilege and a blessing to be Jackie Robinson’s son. It put in perspective our targets, the which means of life and the issues that had been necessary. If we won’t bear in mind after we made leaps into turning into a greater society within the Forties and ’50s, then we’re lacking the muse on which we are able to construct to change into an excellent higher place.

My father could not have carried out it solo, and any lady apart from my mom could not have stood as much as the stress both. They met as younger individuals. There was not one of the historic significance or greatness of anyone — it was two younger individuals at UCLA who met and fell in love. The entire historic story advanced thereafter. At its essence, it’s a love story.

When my father died in 1972, you would see the beginnings of my mom as an organizer. One month after he handed, she turned president of the Jackie Robinson Building Corp., which constructed low- to moderate-level-income housing. In 1973, a 12 months later, she began the Jackie Robinson Basis with household and associates, and chaired the conferences that started the event of the muse.

The muse has by no means simply offered cash. It supplies counseling, mentoring, a household and neighborhood atmosphere the place college students really feel they’re a part of one thing. That every one got here from her academic and work experiences, constructing these human interactions that are essential to supporting the monetary assets or academic assets that the muse makes accessible.

I went again to Africa once I determined to not return to Stanford College for a second 12 months and moved to Tanzania completely in 1984. I now assist handle a espresso cooperative of small-scale farms, which our household and neighbors established in 1995.

My mom has at all times been supportive and has made the 18-hour journey greater than a dozen instances to see her son and grandchildren.

Extremely, in 2018 and 2019, we had been in a position to welcome near 50 Jackie Robinson Basis students who got here to Tanzania underneath the Rachel Robinson Worldwide Fellowship Program. Not solely did she carry me to Tanzania once I was a young person, however she instituted a program the place the graduates and college students who had been a part of the Jackie Robinson Basis would even have that imaginative and prescient of a world.

Progress is multigenerational. Generations of African Individuals had been enslaved on this nation; the world has endured hundreds of years of oppressive and brutal conduct. All of that’s going to require a number of generations working with some type of philosophical basis with the intention to change. It is about human and social growth — on the finish of the day, these are the issues we’ll sense as being worthwhile in our lives, making our passing extra significant.

I am extraordinarily blessed to be a part of the Robinson household. I’ve 10 youngsters whom I really like dearly. I see in all of them, based mostly on their contact with their grandmother and their data of their grandfather, and hopefully what their mom and father have carried out, an extension of that multigenerational change. That is what I place my religion in, and what I hope for.

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