December 9, 2022

Jackie Robinson Museum opens in lower Manhattan, detailing life of Dodger great

Interior details of the new Jackie Robinson Museum, New York City’s first museum dedicated largely to the civil rights movement and the legacies of Jackie Robinson and his widow, Rachel. (Luiz C. Ribeiro/for New York Daily News)

As Spike Lee sat in the front row of a rousing ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning, he thought about resurrecting one of his greatest disappointments.

“I got to look at that script again,” he told the Daily News.

“The studio didn’t want to make it,” added Lee. “I wanted to cover his entire life. Not just concentrate on the Year 1947. Jackie was not born in 1947. He had a life before 1947 and the life after. And that’s the approach I took with Malcolm X. And the studios, they didn’t see the film to be epic, which I wanted it to be. And they do what they wanted to do.”

In many ways, though, Lee’s vision is now memorialized in lower Manhattan, the site of the Jackie Robinson Museum. It’s a homage to Robinson’s multi-faceted existence, featuring 350 artifacts with an emphasis on his Civil Rights work. The full picture takes patrons from Robinson’s childhood to his post-retirement, including a brief stint as a New York tabloid columnist.

The opening ceremony Tuesday was attended by Mayor Adams, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and former Mets owner Fred Wilpon, among others, but highlighted by the giant-scissor ribbon cutting at the hands of Robinson’s widow, Rachel.

Rachel turned 100 years old just a week prior, and her appearance provided the museum its most important connection to its subject.

“Sometimes in the celebratory states that we’re in, we miss some of the subtext,” Mayor Adams said. “Yes, we know about Jackie’s glory but sometimes we don’t dig into the crevices and acknowledge his stories. This moment is not only about his greatness on the field, but off the field. And it’s also a story about love. It’s a story about man and wife who partnered together and really personified the experience of love and commitment.”

“The studio didn’t want to make it,” added Lee. “I wanted to cover his entire life. Not just concentrate on the Year 1947. Jackie was not born in 1947. He had a life before 1947 and the life after. And that’s the approach I took with Malcolm X. And the studios, they didn’t see the film to be epic, which I wanted it to be. And they do what they wanted to do.”

In many ways, though, Lee’s vision is now memorialized in lower Manhattan, the site of the Jackie Robinson Museum. It’s a homage to Robinson’s multi-faceted existence, featuring 350 artifacts with an emphasis on his Civil Rights work. The full picture takes patrons from Robinson’s childhood to his post-retirement, including a brief stint as a New York tabloid columnist.

The opening ceremony Tuesday was attended by Mayor Adams, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and former Mets owner Fred Wilpon, among others, but highlighted by the giant-scissor ribbon cutting at the hands of Robinson’s widow, Rachel.

Rachel turned 100 years old just a week prior, and her appearance provided the museum its most important connection to its subject.