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Jackie Robinson Museum Opens in Manhattan With Focus on Baseball and Civil Rights

 Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Tuesday, 75 years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier and became the first Black player of its modern era when he made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Jackie Robinson Foundation completed its long mission to open a museum in his honor.

Robinson's widow Rachel, who turned 100 in July, was on-hand for the star-studded half-hour celebration, which featured sports and entertainment luminaries including filmmaker Spike Lee and tennis legend Billie Jean King, among others.

Defying the 80-degree-heat in her wheelchair, she then cut the ribbon to officially mark the end of the 14-year-old process that led to the museum's creation and begin a whole new era of appreciation for one of the sport's greatest icons.

"There's nowhere on the globe where dream is attached to our name — or our country's name," New York City Mayor Eric Adams said of the museum's importance to the city while addressing the assembled crowd. "There's not a German dream. There's not a French dream. There's not a Polish dream. Darn it, there's an American dream. And this man and wife took that dream and forced America and baseball to say you're not going to be a dream on a piece of paper, you're going to be a dream in life. We are greater because of No. 42 and because he had an amazing wife that understood that dream and vision."

Originally projected to open in 2010 before delays caused by the Great Recession, and later Covid 19, the museum's location is at 75 Varick Street in Lower Manhattan. It features nearly 20,000 square feet of exhibits and installations honoring the legacy of Robison in baseball and beyond — including his role as a pioneer in the U.S. civil rights movement.

“The issues in baseball, the issues that Jackie Robinson challenged in 1947, they’re still with us,” said Robinson's 70-year-old son David, who joined his mother and sister Sharon (72) for the event. “The signs of white only have been taken down, but the complexity of equal opportunity still exists.”

According to materials provided by the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Jackie Robinson Museum will enhance the JRF's —which was established by Rachel in 1973 — mission to promote higher education, by educating the general public about a man whose words and actions resonate as loudly today as they did during his lifetime:

The Museum will depict Robinson’s extraordinary athleticism and explore his prolific engagement in American life that included civil rights activism, civic engagement, economic empowerment efforts and public commentary. Educational programming for all ages is on the Museum’s agenda as are forums, lectures and other events that address issues central to Robinson’s legacy, such as equal access to education, civic affairs, economic empowerment, the business of sports and race relations.

“The Jackie Robinson Museum is the realization of a dream for my family. My mother has long hoped for a permanent space where people learn about the issues my father cared deeply about and the change he fought hard to affect,” said David Robinson. “We hope the Museum will be a place to not only learn more about his time in baseball and love of sports, but about all that he did to contribute to social progress. We extend our deepest appreciation to everyone who helped make this dream a reality.”

The museum will open to visitors on Labor Day this Sept.26. Guests can expect unprecedented access to over 450 hours of video footage and over 40,000 photos of Robinson on and off the field.

A seven-time All-Star and a World Series champion, Robinson hit .313 with 141 homers and 200 stolen bases in 11 seasons and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962. MLB retired his number (42) for all major league players in 1997.

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