Fight for Freedom with the NAACP
Jackie's first involvement
with the civil rights movement outside of his actions in baseball came
through his participation in a fund raising drive for the NAACP
in 1957. The Fight for Freedom Fund was a ten year program to raise
money for a campain to end segregation by January 1, 1963. This date
was chosen because it was the centennial anniversary of the Emancipation
Robinson threw himself into
his work with tremendous enthusiasm, going on tour to give speeches
in support of the NAACP. Though some had worried that such an aggressive
baseball player would not submit well to the more delicate situations
of public speaking, Jackie proved an able speaker, soon becoming a main
attraction rather than one who merely introduces other speakers.
Robinson with NAACP leaders, Thurgood Marshall and Roy Wilkins.
on tour for the Fight for Freedom Fund.
Jackie was eager to use his
fame in order to help the civil rights movement. He put forward an idea
for a $100 a plate dinner for the Freedom Fund, which over fifteen hundred
guests attended. However, Jackie did not limit his fundraising and support
to the NAACP, but also supported Dr. King's organization, the SCLC,
and CORE, as well as neighborhood groups such as the Harlem branch YMCA
in New York.
Robinson also participated
in many marches and picket lines protesting discrimination. For example,
he organized a march to integrate schools that walked through Washington
D.C. He was heartened by the success of this march, in that ten thousand
students and marchers of all races joined together. However, this march
had less impact than he had hoped in that Eisenhower and his aides refused
to talk to any of the participants.
Robinson was eventually elected
to the board of directors for the NAACP. He continued touring to drum
up support and membership, often having to conceal his activities in the
South so that individuals whom he approached would not suffer reprisals
for associating with the NAACP. When Jackie had first joined, his goal
was to increase membership, but he was thwarted by the many anti-civil
rights measures being taken in the South which intimidated people and
prevented them from joining.
Robinson grew dismayed with
the NAACP as he saw it lose momentum due to its conservative bent. He
criticized those who would not press more urgently for the advancement
of black equality. He said, "I believe they have not done enough
to gain the confidence of the little man in the street. The average person
is waiting to see the leaders take an aggressive stand." However,
Jackie continued to serve the NAACP, despite occasional differences with
in the Youth March