Many know Brooklyn Dodger sports hero Jackie Robinson and how he made history for breaking the color barrier in 1947 as the first African American to play Major League Baseball. But far fewer people know that Robinson’s cultural impact reached far beyond the ballpark. The new Jackie Robinson Museum in New York aims to honor the sports legend, as well as educate and encourage the next generation of activists by offering his life as a blueprint.
This past Tuesday, the museum opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by a nearby reception and screening of the movie, “After Jackie,” a documentary about Robinson’s career post baseball.
“We want them to learn about him and his life, because there are a lot of people who don’t know,” said Della Britton, president and CEO of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. “But we also want them to be inspired, to continue the work, to go forward and to start to get involved and become involved civically.”
The museum features memorabilia from Robinson’s ten year career as a Dodger, as well as 4,500 other artifacts, 40,000 images, and over 450 hours of video footage highlighting both sides of his legendary life. Museum goers will learn that Robinson opened his own bank in 1964, The Freedom National Bank of Harlem, in order to ensure that more Black families received the necessary approval for mortgage loans. And in 1970, he founded the Jackie Robinson Construction Company in an effort to provide low income housing solutions to African American communities.
One permanent installation in the museum is a wall titled “Speak out, stand up,” intended to get people to commit to a cause and to take action.
“It’s for groups to come in and take on an issue, whether it’s LGBTQ, whether it’s global warming and then — it’s actually also a sort of a museum strategy to get people to stay involved, which is having a competition,” Britton told NBC News.
The Jackie Robinson Foundation began planning for the museum in 2008, and 14 years later, the space is finally complete.
“Some of the things we grew up with now have huge historical significance, and the museum is a place for everyone to see it, and much, much more,” Robinson’s son David, now 70, said to the New York Times.
And if you’re waiting for the chance to see it for yourself, it won’t be long. The Jackie Robinson Museum will open to the general public on September 5th.