You may have heard that recently Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a resolution officially honoring Jackie Robinson and apologizing for the treatment he received here back in 1947, the year he integrated Major League Baseball. I personally found it “interesting” that the apology came from City Council and not from the Phillies, whom Robinson’s biography singled out as one of the teams that exhibited the most racist treatment of him during those early years. Philadelphia councilwoman Helen Gym said,”Unfortunately in Philadelphia, Jackie Robinson experienced some of the most virulent racism and hate of his career.”
Now a new documentary from celebrated film maker Ken Burns, scheduled to air tonight, Monday, April 11th and tomorrow, Tuesday, April 12th on PBS, is expected to show Robinson in a new light. Unlike the recent film “42” or 1950’s “Jackie Robinson Story,” this new film is entirely factual, and is said to show that in this case, the man was actually bigger than the myth! Did you know, for example, that he, as a student at UCLA, was the first to earn varsity letters in four sports; baseball, basketball, football and track; or that an older brother, Mack, finished second to Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics? Jackie Robinson was an important figure in Burns’ 1994 Emmy-winning documentary “Baseball,” figuring in eight of the ten episodes. Burns was asked by Jackie’s widow, Rachel, to consider doing another documentary focusing just on her late husband.
As you probably know, Jackie Robinson was Rookie of the Year in 1947 and was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962. Ken Burns considers him the most important person in the history of baseball and possibly in all of sports. He says,”When Jackie joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, Martin Luther King Jr. was in college. The military wasn’t integrated, there were no sit-ins and there was no Rosa Parks. He was a Freedom Rider before there were Freedom Rides, and we have to understand that issue.”
An impressive list of people were interviewed for this project, including Robinson’s widow, 93 year old Rachel Robinson plus President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, Journalist Tom Brokaw, Harry Belafonte, historians, journalists and former teammates.
Narrated by Keith David with Robinson’s words spoken by Jamie Foxx, the new four hour film, airing tonight and tomorrow night, promises to reveal even more about the impact of this pivotal figure in not just sports, but American history, Jackie Robinson.
Jerry Wells – from articles on TheRoot.com, LaTimes.com and PBS.org.