Monday, September 22, 2014

Jackie Robinson - On Being Black Among The Republicans

"I felt the GOP was a minority party in term of numbers of registered voters and could not win unless they updated their social philosophy and sponsored candidates and principles to attract the young, the black, and the independent voter.  I said this often from public, and frequently Republican, platforms.  By and large Republicans had ignored blacks and sometimes handpicked a few servile leaders in the black community to be their token "niggers".  How would I sound trying to go all out to sell Republicans to black people?  They're not buying.  They know better." ~ Jackie Robinson 

Chapter XV of Robinson's autobiography I Never Had It Made has been transcribed below. This chapter, titled "On Begin Black Among The Republicans" describes the eye-opening experiences of Robinson within the Republican Party. Many of the sentiments he expressed in 1964 were heard again some four decades later following the 2004 Republican convention.


Jackie Robinson

Chapter XV: On Being Black Among The Republicans

My first meeting with Nelson Rockefeller occurred in 1962 during a public event at which we were both speakers.  The Nelson Rockefeller personal charm and charisma had now become legendary.  It is almost impossible not to like the man.  He gives two distinct impressions: that he is sincere in whatever he is saying and that, in spite of his fantastic schedule, power, and influence - at that specific moment of your contact - he has shut everything else out and is focusing his complete and concentrated attention on you.

While I admired his down-to-earth manner and outgoing ways instantly, I was anything but overwhelmed at our initial meeting.  I am aware that the enormously wealthy have time to spread charm as they like.  They have their worries, but survival is not one of them.  I wasn't about to be taken in instantly by the Nelson Rockefeller charm.  After all, Richard Nixon had turned the charm on me too (although his is a bit brittle compared with Rockefeller's) and look how that had turned out.

I knew that Rockefeller's family had given enormous sums to black education and other philanthropic causes for black people and that at that time (nearly twenty years ago) a significant number of black college presidents, black professionals, and a significant number of leaders of national stature had received a college education, financed by Rockefeller gifts.  While I have no need to detract from the contributions of the family to black education, I felt it certainly must be weighed in terms of what went into amassing one of the world's greatest fortunes.

As for Nelson Rockefeller himself, I knew little or nothing about his politics.  As far as I was concerned, he was just another rich guy with politics as a toy.  Our first chat had nothing to do with politics.  In fact, the governor took advantage of the occasion to tell me about a private problem.  Since I was an officer of the Chock Full O'Nuts Restaurant chain at that time, he thought I might be able to help him.  It seemed the Rockefeller family was unhappy about one of our advertising jingles which assured the public that our coffee was  as good as any "Rockefeller's money can buy." Representations about the family's feeling in the matter had been made through legal and diplomatic channels, but the offensive jingle was still being aired on radio and television commercials.  I promised to mention the matter to Bill Black, Chock's president.  I was surprised at Mr. Black's reaction.  When I reported the Rockefeller concern, he snapped, "Good!  Let them sue.  We can use the publicity."

As far as I was concerned, that was the end of that.  As far as I knew, I'd probably never be in contact with the governor again.  However, I began to change my mind about Rockefeller, when I learned that the extent of his support for a man I admired deeply, Martin Luther King.

Read complete chapter here