Over a half a century
before Colin Kaepernick
refused to stand for the US national anthem, track and field star Eroseanna "Rose" Robinson was consumed by the need to challenge injustice, but her courageous story has been largely overlooked in the pages of history that have often focused attention instead on athletic peers Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
Born in 1925, Robinson excelled at Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) track events in the 1940s before developing into a leading high jumper, winning at the National AAU Championships in 1958 and joining the US Track and Field team thereafter.
Activism was already part of her life -- through the 50s, she had been prominent in direct action de-segregation protests, including one at a skate rink in Cleveland.
"Rose was really effective at the skate-ins because she was a great athlete," Dr. Amira Rose Davis, professor of history and African American studies at Penn State University, told CNN Sport.
"Because she was so agile, she could evade the White patrons who tried to stop her.
"She was somebody who really saw her athleticism and that platform as a place with which to critique the government, to critique local regulations and segregation."
As part of the US women's track team in 1958, Robinson was invited to compete in the then Soviet Union, when the Cold War was in full swing.
Robinson rejected the offer and was quoted in Jet Magazine as saying: "I don't want anyone to think my athletics have political connotations. In other words, I don't want to be used as a political pawn."
"She quite publicly sent the invite back," said Davis. "She was hypercritical of the government, the treatment of people by the government, but also foreign policy under the Cold War and the United States kind of trying to clean up its image."
The following year, at the Pan-American Games, when "The Star Spangled Banner" was played, Robinson remained seated.