Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"Jackie Robinson" a documentary by Ken Burns

Ken Burns is the documentary film maker who is best known for two epics of war, one on the Civil War and the other on World War II.  He has made many other films that are not quite as well known and his latest, "Jackie Robinson" should end up near the top of the heap.

It debuted Monday for two hours and Tuesday for a second two hour segment on PBS.  The first half was the only partially familiar story of his early life, and then joining the Brooklyn Dodgers as first black player in Major League Baseball.  Among the many things not familiar was that he was a four star athlete at UCLA, and superb at each sport.  That is comparable to Jim Brown who was raised in the town we live in now.  Brown was an All-American lacrosse player, the sport of choice here, as well as exceptional in basketball and track.*

The second half was totally unfamiliar, a revelation.  Following his own admonition of "you never steal the base behind you", Robinson led a successful business career when he left baseball, and among his endeavors founded Freedom National Bank which became the largest black owned bank in the country, meant to serve those who could not get mortgages or other credit from white owned institutions.  More importantly he played a constant role in the civil rights movement of that time in a way that used his fame to advance the cause, but did so in a way that did not seek to have attention on himself as much as others.

This is a remarkable documentary about a man who did so much in a life that was far too short.


*About 15 years ago, the local high school was raising money for major improvements to the modest sports stadium, and one way of doing that was to create a brick walk.  Families and friends of the school were invited to buy bricks.  We did for the four of us and just put our names on it, youngest first and on down  When the walk was laid we noticed that a few bricks to the right of ours was one with the names Jim Brown and Spike Lee.

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