To say Jackie Robinson influenced the civil rights movement in the United States doesn't begin to explain his role in what our society has become. Like Rosa Parks, he's perhaps the ultimate example of what a peaceful individual can do, speaking for an entire people, in challenging a corrupt system.
And he was at the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago Wednesday for the March on Washington, D.C. with Martin Luther King. Major League Baseball public relations tweeted photos of Robinson making his way to the National Mall that day. And the Pasadena Star-News — a remnant of Robinson's hometown papers — noted his presence there earlier this week:
Robinson brought his three children. He would be photographed on the mall talking to a reporter as he hugged his young son David. Some of what he said was taken down by the [Associated Press] reporter.
“I know all of us are going to go away feeling we cannot turn back,” he told the 100,000 who had come to Washington on that summer day 50 years ago.
It was not the first time Robinson appeared alongside King as an active participant in the struggle for civil rights.
Almost a year earlier, in September 1962, Robinson spoke to the Southern Christian Leadership Council’s annual Freedom Dinner in Birmingham, Ala. In his nine-page address the Dodger great said Americans needed to open their eyes and recognize that a “race problem” existed.
Pretty much any photo of Robinson taken after he retired from Major League Baseball tells a story in itself. He was only 44 years old in 1963, but his white hair reveals someone much older. He'd have only nine years left. He packed so much into a short life, but it also cost him time on Earth. That is one of many sacrifices on his part.
MLB deserves credit for recognizing what Robinson means to the game, and his courage in standing up for what is right should not be lost on all Americans — even if they're not big baseball fans.