Michael Robinson (1934-2006)
Born and raised in Asheville, NC, Michael Robinson was familiar with the inequalities between blacks and whites in the South, but he also learned that it didn't have to be this way. Robinson's father was an optometrist who treated black and white patients in the same office. When he was 10 years old, his "colored mammy" (an African American woman who worked as a servant, often helping to raise a white family's children) was forced to sit on the back of the bus and young Robinson chose to sit with her even though he was breaking the law and local custom.
Michael Robinson got involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the late 40s and early 50s, while a rabbinic student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform movement's seminary. During that time, he organized a group of fellow students to try and desegregate a Greek restaurant in Cincinnati. After ordination, Robinson took a pulpit in Croton, NY, a suburb of New York City. During the summer of 1964, Rabbi Robinson, along with a number of other Reform rabbis who had been attending the Central Conference of American Rabbis conference, answered Martin Luther King's call to join him in St. Augustine, FL. Once there, he was arrested, along with 15 other rabbis, for participating in civil rights activities.