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Born July 19, 1922, Rachel Isum grew up in Los Angeles with her parents, Zellee and Charles Raymond Isum, and two brothers, Charles and Raymond. The Isums lived in an integrated, middle-class neighborhood, where they instilled the value of education and responsibility toward others, especially in Rachel, providing the foundation for her lifetime of achievements as a business leader, civil rights activist, professor, nurse, wife, and mother.


Rachel Isum Robinson is a woman of enormous accomplishments, her own and those achieved jointly with her husband, Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947 when he played with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Together the couple supported numerous causes, but particularly civil rights in and out of the sports sphere. Since her husband’s premature death, Mrs. Robinson has used her ability and his legacy to further the causes they so ardently supported.

Following the death of her husband in 1972, Mrs. Robinson incorporated the Jackie Robinson Development Corporation, which was founded to build and manage housing for people of moderate and low incomes. A year later, Mrs. Robinson created the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide college scholarships and leadership training.

Mrs. Robinson has been an ardent crusader for opportunity through education – engaging corporate America in supporting the Foundation’s mission of cultivating talented future leaders and inspiring young people to fulfill their dreams by obtaining a college education.

Jackie and Rachel Robinson hosted legendary jazz concerts at their home in Stamford, Connecticut, beginning in 1963, as fundraisers for jailed civil rights activists. The iconic Afternoon of Jazz shows drew some of the most recognizable names in the genre including Dizzie Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald.

A career nurse, Mrs. Robinson earned her master’s degree in psychiatric nursing from New York University and worked as a researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Department of Social and Community Psychiatry. Mrs. Robinson then became Director of Nursing for the Connecticut Mental Health Center and an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Yale University.

After years at the head of the Foundation’s board, Rachel Robinson stepped down as chairwoman in 1996. That same year, she authored “Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait,” published by Abrams Publishing Company. Mrs. Robinson has received numerous awards including the Candace Award for Distinguished Service from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Equitable Life Black Achievers Award and the Associated Black Charities Black History Makers Award. In addition, St. John’s University, Springfield College, Macalester College, Boston College, Suffolk University, New York University, Connecticut College and the University of Massachusetts have conferred upon her honorary doctorates.

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