The Washington Post

Michelle Obama talks race, discrimination, at White House screening of Jackie Robinson film

“I’m no movie critic,” Michelle Obama insisted. But the first lady/Oscar presenter sure sounded like one Tuesday, giving an effusive rave to a new film about Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball.

“Truly powerful,” she said of “42,” which she and the president saw in a private screening. “We think everybody in this country needs to watch [it].”

First Lady Michelle Obama with Harrison Ford, who plays Major League Baseball executive Branch Rickey and Rachel Robinson, widow of Jackie Robinson. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The first lady’s remarks about the movie took place in the State Dining Room, where she hosted film stars — Chadwick Boseman who plays the legendary slugger, and Harrison Ford, who plays Branch Rickey, the Dodgers exec who signed him — director Brian Helgeland, and Robinson’s widow Rachel, for a discussion with local school children.

For the unofficial critic-in-chief, “42” is clearly the biggest smash since — well, since February, when she lauded “Beasts of the Southern Wild” as one of “the most powerful and most important” films she’s seen.

Boseman and Ford at the White House. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP) Boseman and Ford at the White House. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The first lady said she burned with emotion during “42” watching the “outright discrimination” the Robinsons faced, “from the fans in the stadium to the airport receptionist, even from some of his own teammates.”

“I was mad just watching the movie,” she added. But the Robinsons “met hatred with decency. . . I want you all to keep that in mind.”

She emphasized that society has changed since Robinson integrated the game in 1947. “I mean, there’s work to be done, but things have changed.  Major League Baseball is fully integrated. . .  There are no more ‘Whites Only’ signs posted anywhere in this country. . . Although it still happens, it is far less acceptable for someone to yell out a racial slur while you’re walking down the street — it still happens, but not tolerated.  That kind of prejudice is simply just not something that can happen in the light of day today.”

Update: Guess who else was there? Bryce Harper, apparently.

More Reliable Source: Kate Hudson; Marty Baron; Jim Morrison; Kitty Kelley; Ted Lerner; Reliable Source Tournament brackets

Krissah Thompson began writing for The Washington Post in 2001. She has been a business reporter, covered presidential campaigns and written about civil rights and race. More recently, she has covered the first lady's office, politics and culture.



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