If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Vandals have damaged the Georgia historical marker at Jackie Robinson’s birthplace in South Grady County. The damage, which is visible on both sides of the marker, was reported last Wednesday to the Grady County Sheriff’s Office.
In his report, Sgt. Jeff Riggins with G.C.S.O. says it appears the damage is caused by “pellets from a shotgun blast on both sides. There was also a shotgun slug stuck in the sign.”
Multiple pock marks are visible on the black marker, which has silver lettering. The shotgun slug can be seen in the center of the sign’s bottom third.
News of the vandalism came as a disappointing surprise to Stephen Francis, director of the local Boys & Girls Club, which is named after the baseball legend.
“This is such a dishonorable act that has been carried out against something that has stood with such pride here in Robinson’s birthplace for many years,” Francis says.
The marker was erected 20 years ago by the Georgia Historical Society and the Jackie Robinson Cairo Memorial Institute, Inc., and is part of the G.H.S. Civil Rights Trail.
Charles Renaud, a long serving member of the Jackie Robinson Boys & Girls Club board of directors, says even though the motive of the vandals is unknown, the club will continue to focus its members on overcoming difficulties, just like Robinson did.
Renaud says, “This is the very reason that the Jackie Robinson Boys & Girls Club exists, so that we may teach our children that even through adversity we need to work together to make our city, county, state and country a more inclusive environment. We have always embraced what Jackie Robinson stood for. Nothing like this will deter us.”
Georgia Historical Society board member Erroll B. Davis Jr., former Chancellor of the University System of Georgia and president of the African-American Heritage House at Chautauqua says the damage to the Robinson marker is part of an uptick in vandalism directed at Georgia’s roadside historical markers.
Davis states, “Jackie Robinson was a pioneer in the integration of Major League Baseball and someone whose accomplishments should bring pride to all Americans. This is a shameful act of vandalism that unfortunately has been carried out against several other markers that commemorate Civil Rights figures, in Georgia and beyond.”
Dr. W. Todd Groce, president and C.E.O. of the Georgia Historical Society, echoed the concerns of Mr. Davis, stating, “Jackie Robinson is one of Georgia’s most famous native sons and is justly lauded not only for breaking baseball’s color barrier, opening the door for others like Henry Aaron to follow, but also for his Civil Rights activism beyond the baseball field.”
The Robinson marker is in a quiet, remote part of the county on Hadley Ferry Road, not far from the Florida state line. Investigators are unsure of when the vandalism occurred.
Francis says he and other staff members of the Boys & Girls Club will continue to teach the children the morals and character that embodied Robinson.
“An act like this is a slap in the face to Robinson’s legacy but he overcame adversity time and time again. We as a community will do likewise,” Francis says. “I mean he broke the color barrier in baseball. In order to break something, there has to be an obstacle in the pathway. Whereas acts such as this are meant to divide and cause fear, we as a community will become stronger and draw closer.”
The Georgia Historical Society’s Groce states, “This act of destruction underscores the need for an endowment for the G.H.S. historical marker program that will help us replace this marker and others like it and ensure that our commitment to telling all of Georgia’s history will not be subject to other senseless acts of destruction.”
Other historical markers on the Georgia Civil Rights Trail that have been vandalized include “Mary Turner and the Lynching Rampage of 1918” in Lowndes County and “Flat Rock African Methodist Episcopal Church” in Fayette County. Similarly, a marker in Savannah marking the terminus of General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea and a Civil War-related marker in Fulton County were defaced, marking an increase in vandalism of historical markers relating to African-American history, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the end of slavery.
The Georgia Historical Society, a private, not-for-profit institution, has administered Georgia’s historical marker program since 1998, erecting nearly 300 new historical markers across the state on a wide variety of subjects. The organization also maintains historical markers erected by the State of Georgia prior to 1998. While the Georgia General Assembly allocates funding to support the maintenance of these older, state-owned markers, the historical markers erected by GHS in partnership with community organizations across the state do not have financial support for their perpetual care.