Today, January 31, the 100th anniversary of the legendary Jackie Robinson’s birth, Scholastic Press has announced the September 3 release of Sharon Robinson’s Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963. In the book, whose cover is revealed here, Jackie Robinson’s daughter, author of numerous children’s books honoring her father’s accomplishments and legacy, tells of finding her place in the fight for racial equality and justice. Featuring never-before seen photos, the memoir focuses on the author and her family’s activism and advocacy during an especially turbulent and pivotal period in American history.
The year 1963 was momentous for Sharon Robinson as well as for the civil rights movement. On January 14, one day after celebrating her 13th birthday, she was watching TV when George Wallace, newly elected governor of Alabama, delivered his inaugural address, in which he famously advocated for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” His words profoundly disturbed her, as did the Ku Klux Klan’s bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham on September 15, which claimed the lives of four African-American girls and wounded 22.
That same year also witnessed the May Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, when thousands of young people left school to march in protest of the city’s segregation laws, an event that inspired Sharon to write an essay that her Connecticut school used to illuminate the protest for the nearly all-white student body. And a crowning 1963 moment for the Robinson family was taking part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and listening to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech against the backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28.
Revisiting her memories of 1963 to write Child of the Dream, Robinson explained, “was both rewarding and emotional. It was such a turbulent time. I was reminded why the Children’s Crusade had such a deep impact on me at the age of 13. And my family’s participation in the March on Washington was an important moment in our lives and for the country. I was not prepared for the devastation I felt when four girls were killed when the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed. My parents helped me understand both the sacrifice and the importance of pressing forward.”
Addressing her memoir’s relevance in today’s volatile world, Robinson observed that the events she describes hold a key message for young readers. “I hope that children today will feel empowered by the actions of the children in Birmingham in 1963,” she said. “Their courage helped turn the tide in the movement for justice and equality. Children today are bullied for being different and go to school fearful of violence. By lifting their voices against injustice, children gain confidence, feel more in control of their environment, and are more successful. They have a voice, and it is up to us to listen and help guide them.”
Additional tributes to Jackie Robinson are in the works during this centennial year. Opening today at the Museum of the City of New York is “In the Dugout with Jackie Robinson,” an exhibition that showcases images of the first African-American Major League player and his team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, taken for Look magazine. Along with these black-and-white photos from the museum’s collection, many never before displayed, the exhibit features memorabilia and rare film footage of the Robinson family, as well as magazine articles that portray this pioneering icon through the lens of the press of his day.
And Major League Baseball and the Jackie Robinson Foundation have plans in place to celebrate this milestone throughout the year, culminating in the December opening of the Jackie Robinson Museum in New York City, founded to memorialize Robinson’s athletic and social achievements. His daughter, who is also an educational consultant for Major League Baseball and the founder of Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life, a baseball-themed national character education curriculum, is enthusiastic about the museum’s launch.
“This will be a place for children and adults to learn lessons from the past,” she said. “Through the museum’s creative educational programming, children can share their concerns and find solutions. This is a tremendous tribute to a man who spent his entire life fighting for justice and equality. It takes years to raise the money, plan, and build a museum, and I am proud that we will finally open the Jackie Robinson Museum during the centennial of his birth. I know my father would be honored and thankful that children will have a welcoming and inspirational space to test their voice!”