A marker at the birth site of Jackie Robinson was vandalized.
After vandals shot at a memorial marker dedicated to the late baseball legend and civil rights pioneer last year, the MLB stepped in with a $40,000 donation for a new marker. It was unveiled Wednesday in Robinson’s rural hometown of Cairo, Georgia, The New York Times reported.
April Brown, MLB’s vice president of social responsibility, said the league established a fund for the sign’s ongoing upkeep because they “want to make sure it’s something that stands forever.”
“Sometimes people do look at things as, ‘Oh, it’s just a physical signage,'” Brown said, according to NYT. “But what it represents is how we can empower the community and audiences around social justice, and to empower and lift up those who fought for rights for all.”
The MLB’s donation helped replace the original marker outside the once-standing house where Robinson was born in 1919 (only a brick chimney remains after the building burned down in 1996). They also provided a second marker outside the Roddenbery Memorial Library, which receives more foot traffic, directing tourists to the original marker, 13 miles south.
“This community has produced great people. Jackie was one of them. Don’t be ashamed of where you come from because so many young people, they live in small towns. People ask where are you from and they say Albany or Atlanta, no you’re from Cairo, Georgia,” Robinson’s cousin Dr. Linda Walden said, according to WALB News.
“To me, for someone to do such an egregious thing, I just pray for them and put it in God’s hands,” Dr. Walden added.
Robinson’s defaced marker was discovered in Feb. 2021 amid a wave of vandalism on the Georgia Civil Rights Trail, which also impacted a marker recognizing Mary Turner, a pregnant woman who was lynched in 1918.
W. Todd Groce, president and chief executive of the Georgia Historical Society, said he was initially “shocked and disappointed” but not totally surprised after Turner’s sign was previously defaced. “There’s something about using gunfire on historical markers telling stories about Black people that leads you to believe that it wasn’t simply just a coincidence,” he said, according to NYT.
“The association of guns and violence against African Americans in this country is one of the things that’s been going on for a long time,” Groce added. “So the fact that they shot these markers using guns was a signal that was being sent in some way.”
The vandalized sign will be sent to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, before eventually moving to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. It will serve as a reminder of the racial issues the country still faces, 50 years after Robinson’s death in 1972.
There are currently no leads on who vandalized the markers.
The Atlanta Braves are set to honor Robinson’s legacy this April and will bring their World Series Trophy to Cairo 75 years to the day Robinson broke the color barriers in Baseball.