Famed Major League Baseball player and civil rights icon Jackie Robinson was born 100 years ago on Thursday, and to celebrate his centennial, his daughter is urging a new generation to continue fighting for equal rights.
“The fact that it’s his 100th birthday and we’re even talking about him is amazing,” Sharon Robinson gushed according to The Undefeated. “It means that after all of his work, all of the sacrifice, the joys and the hard times, he is still having an impact. That is pretty incredible,” she added.
Sharon noted that she usually never celebrates her famous father’s birthday in public. She says that she has always felt that her dad’s birthday was a day for his family to remember him, not a day to share with the world.
“I never wanted to do anything publicly. I wanted it to be a private thing. I needed for some pieces of him to be our day,” Sharon said.
But this year, on the centennial of her famed father’s birth, Sharon Robinson says that she wants to use the day to highlight civil rights activism.
“We have some large things we want to accomplish this year,” she said. “This year I’ll do something on his birthday and be public about it, but still in my heart, I’d like that day to be a quiet day.”
Sharon notes that civil rights marchers on TV brought the cause to the forefront in the American mind and led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act which brought on a new age of equal rights. And she hopes that her father’s 100th birthday can also help the cause.
The marches did not quite stir her in the early 1960s when she was a well-to-do, upper-middle-class school girl. But she insists that she learned later that “subtle racism” still existed in her life.
“I didn’t understand that subtle racism was still racism,” Sharon said noting that neither she nor her brother really noticed racism when they were kids in a well-off Connecticut suburb. “We weren’t marching. Nobody was stopping us from going into the school. We didn’t understand how this was having an impact on who we were and our self-esteem.”
But now she says that it is time to keep the pressure leveled upon our society.
In fact, Robinson said that she thinks her father would have approved of Black Lives Matter and activist sports figures like Colin Kaepernick.
“I think he would be very supportive of activism of the athletes because that’s what he was looking for when he was traveling with the civil rights movement,” Robinson said. “He tried to get other athletes to come with him. It was only the boxers who would come.”
“He was always disappointed that more athletes didn’t join him,” she added.
Saying it is “critical” that Americans continue the struggle for equal rights, Robinson also said that the struggle is now “global.”
“For a while we celebrated diversity,” Robinson said, “but now the forces are pointing in the other direction, where diversity is not something we celebrate but build a wall to keep from getting more diverse.”
“His legacy is that the struggle continues,” Robinson concluded. “That message needs to be heard and digested more now than ever.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.