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Collection By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s

Robinson's Later Career: 1957 to 1961

Jackie Robinson, Rachel Robinson, and their three children (David, Sharon, and Jackie, Jr.) at home in Stamford, Connecticut. Photograph by Arthur Rothstein, 1956. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Look magazine Photograph Collection. Reproduction number: LC-L9-56-7021-A, frame 9. Not to be reproduced for trade or advertising purposes.)

This photograph is one of many taken to illustrate the article "My Future," published in Look magazine on January 22, 1957.

Jackie Robinson decided to retire from baseball after the 1956 season. He accepted a job offer from the Chock Full O' Nuts restaurant chain in New York and contracted with Look magazine to write an article to break the news and explain his reason "my legs are gone and I know it" (from Glenn Stout's Jackie Robinson, p. 178) (Robinson had worked with Look before, most recently to publish an autobiographical series in January and February 1955.) In December 1956, a month before the "My Future" article appeared, the Dodgers' general manager told Robinson that the team had traded him to the New York Giants. Robinson followed through with his retirement plans, although the Giants' management tried to change his mind. On April 14, 1957, in an interview on the Meet the Press television program, Robinson discussed the pros and cons of trading baseball players, the impact of baseball's reserve clause, and civil rights in general, and his role in the NAACP Freedom Fund Campaign. Toward the end of the interview Robinson and the panelists talked about Robinson's continued dissatisfaction with the "Negro's position" in professional sports, and his reputation for being "tart-tongued" and "terrible-tempered."

Robinson worked as vice president for personnel at Chock Full O' Nuts from 1957 to 1964. He was also active with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In December 1956, the NAACP had recognized Robinson with the Spingarn Medal, which it awards annually for the highest achievement by an African American. Robinson chaired the NAACP's million-dollar Freedom Fund Drive in 1957 and was a member of the board of directors until 1967. Many other groups also honored Robinson. In July 1962, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference held a testimonial dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Although SCLC president Martin Luther King was not able to attend, King's speech recognized the positive impact of Robinson's achievements beyond baseball.

Robinson used his national celebrity and commitment to equal rights to fuel many efforts to help African Americans achieve full citizenship through the "ballot and the buck." For example:

Timeline

  1. 1963

    Began annual "Afternoon of Jazz" concerts, with Rachel Robinson; first year's proceeds sent to SCLC to support civil rights work and voter registration drives in the South.

  2. 1964

    Helped found and served as board chairman for the Freedom National Bank, a minority-owned commercial bank based in Harlem, New York.

  3. 1964

    Became one of six national directors for Nelson Rockefeller's Republican presidential campaign, and later worked as special assistant for community affairs when Rockefeller was re-elected governor of New York in 1966.

  4. 1970

    Formed the Jackie Robinson Construction Company to build low and moderate income housing.

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