The most inspiring aspect of Ken Burns’s documentary Jackie Robinson is the love story between the baseball legend and his wife, Rachel.
Here is a man who faced unspeakable racism and discrimination as the first Black major league baseball player, but he never stopped strengthening his marriage by writing love letters to Rachel and being there for her. She in turn rooted for him at most of his games and made sure the couple’s home was a haven for him and their three children.
“It was us against the world,” says Rachel Robinson, 93, said in the film, which airs April 11 and 12 on PBS. “They could do a lot of things to us but they couldn’t separate us.”
After her husband retired from baseball, Rachel Robinson pursued a career in nursing. The Robinsons were married for 26 years until his death in 1972.
“There is nothing more important than family and real partnership,” says FLOTUS Michelle Obama in the documentary, which also features commentary from her incredibly significant other, President Barack Obama, and actor and activist Harry Belafonte. “I don’t think you could have had a Jackie Robinson without Rachel.”
These days, Rachel Robinson continues to preserve the love of her life’s legacy through the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which among other things awards college scholarships to deserving minority students. She also educates the public on Robinson’s professional and personal accomplishments and aspirations. The only thing missing is her college sweetheart, who cherished her as much as she cherished him.
“The thing I miss the most is having a trusted friend,” Mrs. Robinson says. “I do have friends. I have good friends. But it’s not like having Jack. And the second thing I miss most is having his arms around me. He was very expressive and loving and I miss that. I miss that a lot.”
Jackie Robinson airs 9 pm ET Monday and Tuesday April 11 and 12 on PBS.