Tonight (April 11), the first episode of Ken Burns’ two-part documentary on Jackie Robinson will air on PBS. Ahead of the debut, Burns sat down with Mother Jones to discuss why Robinson—who integrated Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947—is still relevant in 2016. Especially interesting is Burns’ take on how Robinson’s story illuminates the distinct parallels between the Civil Rights Movement and today’s Black Lives Matter Movement:
We felt that once you’re free from the barnacles of that sentimentality, once you’ve liberated them from the mythology, then all of a sudden, what’s this film about? Well, it’s about Black Lives Matter. They didn’t call it that back then. It’s about driving while Black. It’s about stop-and-frisk. It’s about integrated swimming pools. It’s about the Confederate flag. It’s about Black churches that are torched by arsonists. It’s about the Southern strategy, beginning in the 1960s more fully, took the party of Lincoln, founded in 1844 with one principle, the abolition of slavery, and turned it into and detailed a pact with the devil that Jackie witnessed firsthand. That they would then, because of the civil rights bill, go after disaffected Southern whites who had normally voted Democratic and employ what we call generously the Southern strategy.