In New Film, Ken Burns says, Jackie Robinson Made a ‘Profound Difference’


Ken Burns, the man behind the epic documentaries The Civil War and Baseball, puts it bluntly about his latest film subject. 

“Without a doubt, the most important person in the history of baseball is Jackie Robinson.”

Burns and Rachel Robinson, the late Robinson’s wife, talked about the baseball great’s legacy Monday during a discussion of Burns’ latest PBS film, Jackie Robinson, at a Television Critics Association gathering held, coincidentally, in the California city where Jackie Robinson grew up.

Robinson, a two-part, four-hour film (April 11 and 12, 9 p.m. ET/PT, check local listings), follows Jack Roosevelt Robinson from his childhood to his breaking of baseball’s color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 to his post-baseball life. Robinson, a civil rights pioneer and advocate, died in 1972 at the age of 53.

Beyond baseball, Robinson has a significance to culture and society that makes him “one of the greatest individuals” in American history, Burns said. “It was his walking through the door in Major League Baseball that made a profound social difference” at a time when Martin Luther King Jr. was still in school and years ahead of the Supreme Court decision that desegregated schools.

Interviews with Rachel Robinson are a cornerstone of the film, which was directed and produced by Burns; his daughter, Sarah Burns; and David McMahon. The film is a love story, too, Burns said.

The charming Rachel Robinson, 93, said she is “proud and pleased” with the film, but that when she was about to see it she was “quaking.”

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Source: USA Today |  Bill Keveney