Today is Jackie Robinson Day, the anniversary of the day in 1947 on which Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first black player in eighty years to play major league baseball.
Not only was Robinson an outstanding athlete, playing in six world series and named Most Valuable Player in the National League in 1949, he became a powerful voice in the burgeoning civil rights movement. But Robinson raised his voice from within the Republican party.
Leah Wright Rigueur (The Loneliness of the Black Republican) tells the story:
On a Saturday evening in February of 1966, over a thousand mostly white Republican men and women crowded into a Cleveland hotel banquet hall, eager to hear Jackie Robinson’s opening keynote for the annual Ohio Republican Conference. The baseball icon-turned-political activist did not disappoint.
“I am not what is known as a good Republican,” Robinson declared upon taking the stage. “I am certainly not a safe Republican. I am weary of the black man going hat in hand, shoulders hunched and knee pads worn, to ‘Uncle Tom’ to the enemies of our progress.”