ICYMI: Ken Burns’ Documentary on Jackie Robinson

This past week on PBS, they aired the documentary that was done on Jackie Robinson.

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By showing the context of Jackie Robinson’s life, including many stories about how he grew up, and what happened in his life, it brought out just how much of true American Hero Jackie Robinson was.

Jackie Robinson was so much more than baseball player.

He was an athlete.
He was a husband.
He was a father.
He was an activist.
He was an American committed in pushing his country towards how it should be.

Summary: Photograph shows Jackie Robinson and others marching for civil rights in San Francisco.

Summary: Photograph shows Jackie Robinson and others marching for civil rights in San Francisco.

Things I learned about Jackie Robinson.

His brother was an Olympic Athlete. Won Medals at the games in Berlin.

When he came back to his country – after dispelling Hitler’s ‘Master Race’ propaganda, the only job he could find was STREET SWEEPER.

An Olympic Athlete ——A STREET SWEEPER.

Jackie Robinson missed being at Pearl Harbor by a couple of days.

Jackie Robinson was a 4 SPORT -VARSITY ATHLETE at UCLA.


Jackie Robinson joined the Army, and even though he had years of College, he was REJECTED for Officer Candidate School – BECAUSE HE WAS BLACK.

Jackie Robinson was finally admitted into Officer Candidate School – becoming one of the first Black Officers – because of Heavyweight champion Joe Louis.

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Jackie Robinson had a Court Martial because he wouldn’t subject to Jim Crow laws on the Army base. He was acquitted, but left the Army.

They showed why Robinson was chosen by Branch Rickey, and the deal they made in order for Robinson to be signed.

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One of my favorite parts of the documentary was showing the relationship with his wife Rachel, from their initial courtship.

Mrs. Robinson describes how she was attracted to Jackie, not just because he was BMOC Athlete, but because he was comfortable in his own skin. He was ‘never ashamed of being Black’.

In Rachel, Jackie Robinson found his equal. A woman who was getting an education, going into an actual profession – nursing, and who would stand her own ground and speak her own mind. They had ups and downs, but even when broken up, Rachel didn’t sit around waiting for Jackie – she went on with her own life, and when he realized that he didn’t want his life to proceed without her, he manned up and made it happen!

Mrs. Robinson saw her part in their marriage as a partnership, and that she was his refuge. She could keep life normal for Jackie, and provide for him a home full of love and support where the worries of the outside world could be left at their doorstep.

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Seeing the story of Jackie and Rachel Robinson being told, it truly was fitting that President and Mrs. Obama were involved in this documentary. As they spoke of the relationship of Jackie and Rachel, one could not help but understand that what they said about the Robinsons, could be applied to themselves as the first Black inhabitants of the White House.

After leaving baseball, Jackie Robinson could have sat on his laurels. But, he didn’t.

He was a Citizen Activist until he died. Never shying away from the Civil Rights Movement. Always trying to find a way where he could help.

I can’t recommend enough this documentary. It was wonderful.

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Rachel Robinson and Ken Burns

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Mrs. Rachel Robinson at 92 years young.

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10 Responses to ICYMI: Ken Burns’ Documentary on Jackie Robinson

  1. Ametia says:

    Rachel Robinson, at 92 had the opportunity to tell her story and experiences, as a black woman,mother,wife, friend, confidante, employee, student.


    • eliihass says:

      I liked the mischievous glint in her eyes that betrayed what she and Jackie talked about privately, and what they really thought of folks..

      I especially love how even in those days when it wasn’t the norm, how Jackie treated her so unapologetically as an equal…had her at his side at every moment…especially all the important ones…she was right there with that bemused and almost contemptuous smile – what opposing white folk would call a smirk today…

      He held her hand…kissed her passionately on the lips in public…acknowledged her as his full partner in every public statement….it was alway ‘we’…my wife and I and our family…it was never I or my family….he was always sure to mention Rachel…

      He might have been a tough, hard-headed man, but he showed with his every action, that he wasn’t too macho to be vulnerable with his wife…He even often ceded the lead to her … he was a real man…so self-assured he wasn’t scared or too insecure to share the glory with his wife…

      The confidence Rachel Robinson exuded – and still exudes…That’s the indisputable confidence of an indisputably well-loved wife…

      As it should be, Rachel’s voice is the final word on the story about her husband and THEIR life…

      It isn’t the voices or stories courtesy of their living children…even though their telling of their father is very important…

      It especially isn’t the perspectives of team mates, peers, colleagues or others…

      There’s a sacredness Jackie ensured his marriage and relationship with Rachel always had…that was a boundary nobody was allowed to cross…

      As it should be…

  2. Ametia says:

    Jackie Robinson was a member of the Republican Party. I didn’t know to what extent, until the documentary. He supported Nixon, until Nixon STRAYED into nastiness. God don’t like UGLY.

    And black folks during that era had the nerve to label Robinson an “Uncle Tom.”

    Nothing compares to the COONIN, SPOONIN, JIVIN’, SHUCKIN, & BUCKIN’ that’s going on in the 21st century, especially in this election cylce.

    Just looking at what Jackie Roinson had to endure in the 40s and beyond, before he died of a heart attack at 53….FIFTY-THREE such a short life span, and he accomplished miracle upon miracle under such duress! You can’t tell me that his heart attack and death wasn’t related to the stress of racism, trying to hold himself together with his family and firiends, and serving the greater good by speaking out about bigotry, inequality, injustices, racism.

    Yes; let’s have the conversation about Jackie Robinson being more than just a major league bseball player,SHALL WE?

  3. Liza says:

    I just DVRd this yesterday and will be watching episode one tonight. Really looking forward to this, Ken Burns is a great storyteller, very thorough on every subject he has documented over the years.

    • Ametia says:

      Liza, the documetary did not disappoint. The movie 42 showed the blatant racism and curelty Robinson endured on the baseball field, and short snippets of his married life.

      Nothing about his tireless work for CIVIL RIGHTS. He was a multidimentional human being, and the documentary covers the many layers of him. Well done!

    • eliihass says:

      I’ll hold back until you get to see it too Liza…hope you’ll share your perspective..

  4. rikyrah says:

    I was so struck by the confirmation of what I already knew from reading things, here and there about Jackie Robinson.

    He was a “Race Man”.

    To his core.

    I look at those on the Coon Train today, with all the advantages that they have…

    BECAUSE of people like Jackie Robinson..

    And, they don’t have 1/100th of his character or courage.

    • Ametia says:

      TELL IT. I’m sure Jackie Robinson had to make compromises along the way to get some things accomplished. We know he wasn’t perfect either. But here’s the deal. I don’t think he ever sold his sold to the DEVILS for a 3 piece and a biscuit!

      • eliihass says:

        The Paul Robeson moment was not one of his shining ones…

        You could tell it haunted him afterwards…He knew ..

        As you said in another post Ametia, there was something palpably real about Jackie Robinson…his character came through even after all these years for those who weren’t alive or old enough to witness things and him firsthand…

        That interview about his son…where he said he wasn’t sure how he could be reaching or positively influencing other folks and other folks kids, if he couldn’t even reach his…It was so heartbreaking…

  5. Ametia says:

    Thank you so much Rikyrah!

    Now 3 Chics Family, LET’S UNPACK the JACKIE ROBINSON PBS documentary!

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