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Robinson, who was an executive at the Chock Full O’ Nuts restaurant chain, sent a letter to President Dwight Eisenhower in May 1958, advocating for social justice in American public schools.
“17 million Negroes cannot do as you suggest and wait for the hearts of men to change,” the letter reads. “We want to enjoy now the rights that we feel we are entitled to as Americans. This we cannot do unless we pursue aggressively goals which all other Americans achieved over 150 years.”
A few months later, Robinson and a group of civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., planned the Youth March for Integrated Schools, according to Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project. The first march, held on Oct. 25, 1958, drew a crowd of 10,000 that marched down Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., to the Lincoln Memorial.
Robinson also helped fund the African American Students Foundation, a scholarship program that brought talented African students to the United States. Among the recipients was Barrack Obama Sr., who went on to study economics at the University of Honnolulu.
Robinson’s legacy of advocating civil rights in education lives on through the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The JRF, established by Rachel Robinson a few months after her husband’s death in October 1972, offers educational and leadership programs for under-served youth.