- Feb 11, 2010
PBS is showing, and promoting, its new two-part series on Jackie Robinson. I didn't watch all of it -- heck, some of the story was shown at the time in the Jackie Robinson Story movie of 1950 (starring Jackie Robinson). But, I happened to see the below part of the PBS show. I don't think I've ever heard this part of Jackie Robinson's story before:
http://www.thenation.com/article/ken-burns-on-jackie-robinson-and-the-republican-partys-pact-with-the-devil/Robinson, sure enough, was present at the 1960 Democratic Convention as well as 1964 Republican Convention, and what he saw left him distraught. Jackie was a lifelong Republican because the Democratic Party’s Dixiecrat wing ran his family out of Georgia. In 1960, angered that Richard Nixon ignored his requests to help a jailed Martin Luther King, he considered endorsing John Kennedy and attended the Democratic National Convention. He also had friends telling him that this senator from Massachusetts was serious about civil rights. Yet Kennedy was still trying to hold that Dixiecrat coalition together and sat segregationist Governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus on stage. Robinson walked out in disgust.
In 1964, Robinson endorsed New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and attended the Republican National Convention as a “Rockefeller Republican” delegate, only to witness the ascension of Barry Goldwater as his party made its play for Southern whites enraged at Lyndon Johnson’s support for the Civil Rights Act. He saw, in Burns’s words to me, the moment when “the Republican Party made a pact with the devil for which they are still paying, from Ronald Reagan beginning his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, saying ‘I’m for states’ rights,’ through Willie Horton, through, now, Donald Trump taking a couple days to—wink, wink—disavow David Duke and white supremacy in the Ku Klux Klan.”
Burns described the scene that Robinson witnessed firsthand at the 1964 RNC: a place where, “out of thirteen hundred delegates, 15 were black, and of those 15, one had his credentials revoked and another had cigarettes put out on him by Goldwater supporters. There was an angry Alabama delegate who wanted to get into a fight with Jackie, and Jackie was ready to do it. Unfortunately, the delegate’s wife held him back and it didn’t happen.” It was after this scene that Robinson later said he now had “a better understanding of how it must have felt to be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.”