Seventy-two years ago, Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the African-American player to take part in America’s pastime.
On what might have been his 100th birthday celebration, Jackie Robinson was remembered across the nation on Thursday. In Tallahassee, a diverse group gathered to celebrate at the Challenger Learning Center with a panel discussion about Robinson’s impact on and off the field. This event was sponsored by the Village Square.
Robinson’s life as a baseball player, hero and trailblazer in the civil rights movement were the topics of discussion.
“The purpose of this event is to take a relevant example from history that has particular meaning to us in Tallahassee,” Bill Mattox, chair of The Village Square, said.
“Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia and he interacted with FAMU students involved in the civil rights movement. Students who were arrested and thrown in jail, Robinson sent them letters of encouragement and journals to record everything that was happening to them in jail. We are taking the story of his life and using it as an opportunity to explore how sports has improved race relations.”
The speakers included Linda Walden Robinson’s cousin, attorney Fred Flowers, the first black student-athlete at Florida State University, and Bob Sanchez, retired journalist and FAMU professor.
Walden has been instrumental in continuing the legacy of Robinson by leading efforts to get Cairo on the Registry of Historic places.
She revealed detailed stories about her family and their migration from Georgia to California. She talked about his bravery and him being a catalyst during the civil rights movement.
“Robinson raised majority of the money for civil rights movement and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Jackie would have big jazz concerts at his house in Connecticut, people like James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and many other big artists would come and perform and that’s how they raised a lot of the money during the movement.”
Robinson also established the first black bank in New York and the Jackie Robinson Development Corporation to provide housing for the under privileged.
Flowers broke the color barrier on the baseball team in youth baseball and at Florida State University in 1966. He gave a captivating breakdown of the history of black athletes during slavery and analyzed the impact of Jackie Robinson.
“Jackie Robinson was never a victim of anything, the victims were the minds of the white racists. The impact of Jackie Robinson was he caused a psychological conflict between the mind of a racist who had an idea of racist superiority and now they see the performance of a black man and they did not know how to reconcile that,” Flowers said.
He added that Robinson’s greatest contribution was making racism taboo.
Walden closed the evening with a song called “If I Can Help Somebody.” This piece was sung at Robinson’s funeral in 1972.
“Life is not important except for the impact it has on other lives,” Walden said.