Is the coast clear? Any instances of blackface or diversity snafus on the horizon to mar Black History Month? Any of that nonsense to call out? Only last year and the year before did rashes of both spread in news headlines. But not this year. We’re conditioned to anticipate them like clockwork, but it’s a relief not to see them. Too soon to call it? Anyway, this year’s Black History Month is starting on a more auspicious note.
By Howard Bryant | America prefers to view itself as a civilized society and, as such, the latter is the obvious, proper, and decent response. Yet judging by its obsession with law enforcement, America acts as if the former is its natural order—that violent crime is but a bad mood away and only the shield, the Glock, and the squad car stand between life and senseless death at the hands of our neighbors. Americans cling to this contrived state of emergency despite decades of research confirming that killing as a primary instinct is extremely rare, a dystopian fantasy compared to the socioeconomic factors that drive people to violent crime.
First, the American Dirt snafu. Now this? Barely into the beginning of Black History Month, we had a teachable moment. Yes, that kind of teachable moment. To celebrate the month, Barnes & Noble Fifth Avenue announced the launch of their Diverse Editions. Alice in Wonderland, Romeo and Juliet, The Secret Garden, and nine other classic novels—“classic” meaning, of course, older works of fiction from the white literary tradition, as though other cultures don’t have longstanding literary traditions of their own, tut-tut—would have custom designed covers, each one illustrating the main characters with multiethnic backgrounds.
Two years ago, award-winning sportswriter and culture critic Howard Bryant explored the rise, fall, and resurgence of Black activism in the sports arena in The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism. He’s back with a new book, and this time, he gets deeply personal. Full Dissidence: Notes from an Uneven Playing Field, a collection of ten essays, is an impassioned reflection on how Black citizens must always navigate the sharp edges of whiteness in America—as citizens who are often at risk of being told, especially during times of increasing authoritarianism, to go back where they came from. And in each essay, Bryant does not hold back.
By Howard Bryant | For black men, sports was not as promising an employment opportunity as it appeared. Their bodies were valuable, but beyond playing, chances to coach, evaluate personnel, or run or own teams were as remote as they were in the non-sports world. And as for the Heritage, Jackie Robinson had created the template of the black political athlete, but it was still a game, and employees were still just ballplayers, with plenty of visibility but not nearly enough security (the million-dollar, guaranteed contract was a decade and a half away), so the tolerance for speaking out about social issues was low. Even during the obvious inequality of the Jim Crow era, the white mainstream was still confounded by the black demand for equality.
Are you ready for the holiday season and on the hunt for gifts to inspire someone in your life? Our holiday sale is back! Save 30% on everything at beacon.org through December 31 using code HOLIDAY30. This year, Beacon Press is also donating 10% of our web sales in December to Unitarian Universalist Assocation Disaster Relief Fund to the help the communities in California recover from the wildfires. Here are our holiday picks for the year. Drum roll, please
It’s an iconic moment that’s been seared into sports history and Black history. Fifty years ago, track and field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in the Black Power salute during the American national anthem at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City to protest racial inequality. That day, not only did Smith and Carlos win gold and bronze medals respectively; they also joined the ranks of Jackie Robinson and Paul Robeson in a long legacy of Black athlete-activists. Journalist Howard Bryant covers the trajectory of their sports careers in The Heritage.
By Howard Bryant | Look at the ugly faces, twisted but not betrayed. The betrayed face contains a hint of hurt, that layer of justified anger that makes you stop and feel a little compassion. This is not that. These are the faces of rage. They don’t get it. Well, that part isn’t exactly true. They get some of it. They get half of it, their half, the half that convinces them they’ve always been the good guys, and when you’re the good guys, then there is no other half. When they look down from their seats at the football field, they get the enormous American flag unfurled across the field bigger than Rhode Island. They get the color guard, faces stoic, grimly professional, the immaculate Navy uniforms, with the porcelain-white gloves holding the massive flag. And the soldiers? They always get the soldiers.
For Black athletes, sports and politics have always been intertwined. Their very presence on the field is a political act. Some athletes have used their status and influence to speak out against racial injustice; others have remained silent. From legends like Paul Robeson and Jackie Robinson to current icons like Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James, the heritage of Black activism within sports is deep and complex. Journalist Howard Bryant details it in full in The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism.
Black History Month is the time that connections need to be made between the ancestors of Black heritage and the living inheritors. As educator Christopher Emdin wrote on our blog, the stories of past battles should never be told as if they are over or conquered. The stories are alive and playing out today. The connections are more powerful when they’re grounded in the context of history. In the spirit of Emdin’s observations, we’re offering a list of recommending reading to bridge the past with the present.
In honor of the 94th birthday of Jackie Robinson, we share this story of how racism caused the Red Sox to let him get away.
It is not a requirement that you be a Red Sox fan to work at Beacon Press, but it let's just say that it helps. There are many Fenway faithful around our offices, and we are fans who must live...
Howard Bryant talks about the history of the Red Sox and how things have and haven't changed.
See what media our authors have been getting this week.
Yesterday marked the fiftieth anniversary of the day the Boston Red Sox became an integrated team, when Pumpsie Green was sent in as a pinch runner. Howard Bryant, author of Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston,...