Thursday, February 24, 2005

Things To Do For Black History Month Days 23 & 24

I think I'm going to write the final few posts for this series in advance. Between helping my dad do a little research for his class and trying to get some sleep since I had my workfare duties on Wednesday, I didn't sit down to write a post. Since these thngs are winding down, I'm running out of interesting ideas (and no one sent me any). Anyway, here's one belated post and one that's right on time:

Things To Do For Black History Month Day 23: Remember African-American Sports Pioneers

What would the sport of baseball look like if Jackie Robinson had never made in the major leagues? Would boxing still be a predominantly white sport if Jack Johnson, or more importantly Joe Louis, never won the heavyweight championship? What if Jesse Owens didn't prove Hitler wrong in the 1936 Olympics?

It's fortunate that those questions will never be answered. These people (and countless others) helped sports immensely. Their accomplishments not just paved the way for African-Americans but other groups to play sports on a level playing field. Sports as a whole is better served by their achievements.

There are two articles available online that I suggest you read. First is "'Those are my heroes' Louis, Owens set stage for full integration after decades with little progress," an article from the Houston Chronicle. The other article I suggest is from the Black Voices section of AOL and is called BV Sports Salutes Less-Heralded Heroes. From that article I found out that Tiger Woods was not the first black golfer on the PGA was Charlie Sifford back in 1961.

Things To Do For Black History Month Day 24: Seek Out Good African-American Novels/Short Stories

It has occurred to me that I have mentioned various types of African-American literature including slave narratives, poetry, plays, and even speculative fiction...but I have not said a word about just novels and short stories in general. I guess in all my trying to think of unique things to suggest for this series of posts, I forgot the general and obvious.

There is a lot of great African-American literature out there. A whole lot. However, I'm going to give you a list of books I have read and enjoyed (or of books that I myself want to read that are supposed to be very good):

  • Any Novel by Toni Morrison: I know this is incredibly general, but it's hard to go wrong with Toni Morrison. She's just that good. She won a Nobel Prize for literature for goodness sake! The only one I have read is Song of Solomon but you can also try Beloved (and find that it's much better than the movie) and her first novel (the Nobel Prize winner, I believe) The Bluest Eye.

  • Black Boy and Native Son by Richard Wright: These books are not happy or upbeat. They are depressing but very powerful. Black Boy, Wright's autobiographical novel, is one that engrossed me so much that I read parts of the book I didn't have to read. Look for the Library of America version of both books as they contain extra stuff.

  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: This is supposed to be a classic of literature, African-American or not. I will read it one day and I think you should too.

  • The Autobiography Of An Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson: This is a very interesting novel about a black man who decides to pass for white, and is written from his point of view. When it was originally released, Johnson's name wasn't on it and for a while people did think that it was a real autobiography.

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: This is another book I haven't read, but I think I will seek it out myself...what with the Oprah Winfrey-produced movie version coming on in a couple of weeks.

  • Short Stories by Langston Hughes: This is a collection of stories written by Hughes. The stories in here are delightful and varied. The one I like the most? One about a white couple that is fascinated with black children.

  • Push by Sapphire: This one probably wouldn't be on a lot of people's lists (or even on their radar) but it's compelling, heartbreaking, disgusting, and uplifting. It's the story of a young, overweight, black teenage mother as she slowly makes something of herself despite her incredibly rough life. It's hard to read at times (both emotionally and literally) but it's a book you will not soon forget.

  • Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin: I don't remember much about this novel except that its portrayal of father-son relationships was pretty powerful. I should probably revisit it in the future.

Again, this is just a start. There are probably a lot of great, influential works I am missing here. But you at least have enough to start your reading journey.

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