February 16 to 28, 2022
Black History Month Special
Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future
By John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith
America’s abolitionists had some powerful presidential proponents: John Adams disdained slavery, and his son, John Quincy—during his post White House years–became known as the attorney who argued an 1841 case before the Supreme Court—and won.
John Quincy defended fifty-three, freed Africans who were commandeered aboard La Amistad and imprisoned. On July 2, 1839, while the slave ship was en route to Cuba, the hostages defied their unlawful captors, and killed most of the crew; the cook, and the captain.
According to History.com, “Adams’ skillful arguments convinced the court to rule in favor of returning the Africans to their native country, but later, President [John] Tyler refused to allocate federal funds to send the Africans back to Africa. Instead, the abolitionists had to raise money to pay for the expense.” It is interesting to note that Tyler’s father, Judge John Tyler Sr. was a prominent slave owner in Virginia.
For more information the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Amistad – Freedom is not given, it is a birthright! by Florence R. Parker-Wallace.
On February 25, 1964, 22-year-old Cassius Clay—later known as Muhammed Ali– defeated World Heavyweight Champion, Sonny Liston, at the Miami Beach Convention Hall. It was an enormous upset of expectations. Liston had been the eight-to-one favorite, but Clay had predicted he would “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” and knock out his competition in the eighth round. The match was over in the seventh.
According to History.com, “Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1942. He started boxing when he was twelve and by age 18 had amassed a record of over one hundred wins in amateur competition. In 1959, he won the International Golden Gloves heavyweight title and in 1960 a gold medal in the light heavyweight category at the Summer Olympic Games in Rome. Clay turned professional after the Olympics and went undefeated in his first nineteen bouts, earning him the right to challenge Sonny Liston, who had defeated Floyd Patterson in 1962 to win the heavyweight title.”
Ali–considered the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time–lived with Parkinson’s disease, and spinal stenosis, died in 2016 at the age of seventy-four.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Walter Dean Myers’ biography, The Greatest: Muhammad Ali.
On February 27, 2006, Effa Manley became the first—and only woman– inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a trailblazing, non-player:
According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, “Co-owner and business manager of the Newark Eagles from 1936 to 1948, Effa Manley was noted for running one of the most professional organizations in the Negro leagues. Using her position with Newark to crusade for civil rights, Manley made the Eagles a social force off the field and a baseball force on it, as the club was usually a top-division team and won the Negro League World Series in 1946. With the sale of Monte Irvin to the New York Giants, Manley established the precedent that major league clubs should respect the contracts of the Negro leagues.”
For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Baseball’s Leading Lady: Effa Manley and the Rise and Fall of the Negro Leagues by Andrea Williams.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.