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1957 Jackie Robinson NAACP "Time To Score For Civil Rights" Advertising Poster (Robinson Family Provenance!)
Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $7,200
Presented is one of the most extraordinary and historically significant Jackie Robinson display items we have ever had the privilege of offering: Exceedingly rare 1957 "Time To Score For Civil Rights" poster featuring Jackie Robinson "going to bat" for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This may, in fact, be the only surviving example. We have never seen another. This piece has appeared at auction twice before. The first time we saw it was in a 2006 Lelands auction and then seven years later, in May 2013 we had the privilege of handling it ourselves (Lot 1426). When the poster was first consigned to us in 2013 (from the original purchaser at Lelands in 2006) we were so intrigued by its significance and rarity that we called Joshua Evans, founder and chairman of Lelands, to ask if he might have any recollection of its history. He remembered the piece immediately and was very accommodating, providing us with the extraordinary provenance of the piece: This poster had been saved by the Jackie Robinson family and had personally been consigned to Lelands by Rachel Robinson! Our thanks to Josh Evans for providing this important information that otherwise might have been lost to time and allowing us to include it here !
The poster displays a large image of Robinson in a batting pose as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The text reads "Time To Score For Civil Rights." Below that is Robinson's facsimile signature and his title: "Chairman, NAACP 1957 Fight for Freedom Fund Campaign." The larger text at the base, all in red lettering, reads "Give—Join /NAACP." In addition to this poster's extreme rarity and historical significance as a relic of an important and turbulent time in America, it symbolizes the dichotomy of Robinson's involvement in the Civil Rights movement.
When Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 he did so with the full understanding that he could not fail. Not on the field, or, equally important, off the field. After Dodgers president Branch Rickey had settled on Robinson as the player to shoulder that responsibility, he admonished Robinson that he was not looking for a man with the guts to fight back. He was looking for a man with guts enough not to fight back. Rickey knew that if Robinson retaliated in any way to the insults, threats of violence, and other indignities he suffered from opponents, fans, and even some of his teammates, then his noble experiment would fail. Right from the outset, Rickey had warned Robinson of just how difficult it would be: "We can’t fight our way through this, Robinson. We’ve got no army. There’s virtually nobody on our side. No owners, no umpires, very few newspapermen. And I’m afraid that many fans will be hostile. We’ll be in a tough position. We can win only if we can convince the world that I’m doing this because you’re a great ballplayer and a fine gentlemen." Remembering that time, Robinson was later quoted as saying, "Could I turn the other cheek? I didn’t know how I would do it. Yet I knew that I must. I had to do it for so many reasons. For black youth, for my mother, for Rae, for myself. I had already begun to feel I had to do it for Branch Rickey."
For the first two years of his professional career Robinson was true to his word. He resisted the urge to fight back against players who baited him, or be outspoken off the field with regard to segregation and civil rights. And it worked. Robinson's play on the field, where he helped lead the Dodgers to the pennant in his first season, along with his silence off the field, did more for the advancement of civil rights than any series of public campaigns, marches, or protest rallies.
After his second season, Rickey released Robinson from his promise and he was free to stand up for himself on the field, but the difference was that now he was doing so as an equal, as a professional who had earned his spot on the roster, and one who had the backing of his teammates. It made all the difference in the world, both on and off the field. Now, free from his promise, Robinson was finally able to speak his mind publicly about the questions of race equality in the United States. When he retired after the 1956 season Robinson became an outspoken supporter of the NAACP. Earlier, the time demands of his baseball career made his active participation in the NAACP difficult. Once his career ended, he was able to fully commit his time to the cause, as evidenced by this poster.
The NAACP's Fight for Freedom Fund, which began in 1953, aimed to raise one million dollars per year for the NAACP’s anti-segregation efforts. It had never met that goal, but in 1957 Robinson volunteered to chair the fund, with the hopes that he could meet or exceed that dollar expectation. That year Robinson worked tirelessly for the fund, including a cross-country speaking tour that helped raise thousands of dollars at each stop. Robinson's appearances drew huge crowds wherever he went, and his speeches so motivated people that many spontaneously donated money from their pockets at the events. Robinson's efforts paid off and the fund finally met its $1 million goal that year.
This poster was issued in conjunction with that yearlong campaign headed by Robinson, and, as mentioned earlier, is the only example we have ever seen. Truly a museum-caliber piece in all respects, it has been consigned directly by the purchaser in our May 2013 auction (where it realized $5,332). The poster (17 x 22 inches) has been mounted on board and displays horizontal and vertical mailing folds as issued. Tape residue appears in each corner, and a few light stains are also evident throughout. In Very Good Condition overall. The poster has been matted and framed (hiding the tape residue in the corners) to total dimensions of 25 x 26.5 inches. Reserve $2,500. Estimate $5,000+. SOLD FOR $7,200
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