It’s Jackie Robinson Day, and the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City displayed a painting entitled “Grace,” created by artist Dave Hobrecht. It shows Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. having dinner with Robinson and his Dodgers teammates, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe. The painting will be on display as part of the Barrier Breakers exhibit at the museum.
The powerful work of art was inspired by a story told by Newcombe, who recalled King telling them they were the trailblazers of the Civil Rights Movement. Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947, while Campanella and Newcombe joined Robinson before the decade ended and showed that African Americans can play the game of baseball with passion and grace.
“Jackie, Roy and Don were proud that the greatest Civil Rights leader in this country’s history is saying to them, ‘I couldn’t have done what you did [in baseball],’” Kendrick said.
The painting was in the news recently after it was nearly destroyed while being shipped to the NLBM for Jackie Robinson Day.
“In the process of the painting being shipped from California to the museum, it was severely damaged,” said NLBM president Bob Kendrick. “The frame was in shambles and the piece, itself, had been severely damaged.”
But in true Negro League spirit, the damaged artwork was repaired in time to be revealed for the public to see. The painting has a new frame provided by Sean Smith, who owns Art & Frame Warehouse in Kansas City. Hobrecht then came to Kansas City recently and did touch-up work on the painting.
“I think there is this hidden message that is called ‘unbreakable spirit,’” Kendrick said. “The painting is broken, but not our spirit. That is such a perfect metaphor for the Negro Leagues. You can’t break our spirit. Whatever you might throw our way, you are not going to kill our love for this game. I think that was my mindset [with the painting].”