Grab your atlas, running shoes, (Spanish to English translator,) and a good book! You ready? Let’s go, fam!
Wow. It’s just like me to post an article about the month of February less than an hour before February’s end. I sincerely apologize. I’ll try to get better at punctuality.
Black History Month, a.k.a African-American History Month, is observed and celebrated by the United States and Canada in February and Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands in October.
These two months in these two continents are dedicated to honoring and celebrating the culture and history of black people.
It was chosen to be celebrated in February, as that was the month when Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Doulgas were born.
For this post, I would like to acknowledge one very influential black person from every country that observes BHM (Black History Month).
- Canada. Viola Desmond. You see Viola Desmond everytime you pick up a Canadian ten dollar bill (sadly I haven’t been able to add one of those to my foreign coin collection). Desmond was born in 1914, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to a black father and white mother, which was uncommon at the time. She was a businesswoman and beautician, and was also likely a Christian.
She is famous across Canada primarily for the event that took place during 1946, in Roseland Theatre, Glasgow, Nova Scotia. She was driving when her car broke down, and being told that it would take several hours to repair, so she went to a theatre to spend some of that time. She requested a ticket for the main floor, but was given one for the balcony, where all the black people would sit. Desmond sat on the main floor anyway. When she wouldn’t leave, she was forcibly taken out of the theatre (causing a hip injury) and taken to jail, where she was kept all night, given no access to a lawyer, bail, or other. She was also charged $26, which is around 300-600 Canadian dollars today.
Because of this, she is often compared to American Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks.
Desmond died in 1965.
- Ireland. Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama -though Americans by birth and residency- both have Irish roots. Let us take a look at Muhammad Ali. If you don’t know what he is
then you have more in common with me than you thoughtthen you are clearly not a fan of boxing, or at least not of boxing history. Ali was one of the best boxers, if not the best, in all of history. He was born in 1942 and died in 2016, at the age of 74. One of his most famous actions in the Civil Rights Movement was refusing to join the army when he was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, believing that it was unjust, and also it was a move by the white government to make black people work for them.
Ali had a score of 56 wins and 5 losses. Some of the many awards he received were Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year, Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and the Millennium Bambi Award. About his Irish heritage, he is descended from an Irishman named Abe Grady, who moved to Kentucky in the 1960s and married an African-American woman. They had a family, and one of their daughters -Odessa Grady- married Cassius Clay. Cassius Clay Jr. -their son- changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1942 when he converted to Islam.
- Netherlands. Boy Ecury. Boy Ecury was born into a big and wealthy Catholic family (I’m not sure if he remained a Christian for the rest of his life, but I definitely hope that he did for his and his family’s sake) in 1922, in Oranjestad, Aruba, an island owned by the Netherlands.
His story is a sad one, but noble. He went to the Netherlands for college, where he got a diploma. He did a lot of travelling in the Netherlands (funny, because the Netherlands isn’t very big) with his brother Nicky, and where there when World War II kicked up. At that time Boy befriended a boy (man, really, but I couldn’t help it, even if I could) name Luis (nice name) de Lannoy, who was part of an underground resistance against the Nazis.
In the resistance they would often go on dangerous missions, which included planting bombs on German trucks. Though colleagues would often betray them. Luis was once betrayed, imprisoned, and tortured, but he eventually managed to escape. When Ecury was betrayed and imprisoned, he was tortured for information, but did not betray his friends. He was executed the next day at the age of 22, in 1944. Ecury was buried and given military honors in 1947, and a statue was made of him in 1949. A movie was even made of him.
- United Kingdom. Mary Prince. 1788 – 1833. Born into an enslaved family in Bermuda, she experienced horrible, inhuman treatment. In 1828, her masters took her with them to England. There, she ran away and found freedom, though only in England. She campaigned against slavery, joining the Anti-Slavery Society. Prince was the first black, English woman to ever present an anti-slavery petition to Parliament. She was also the first black, English woman to write and publish an autobiography, which she called The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave. Maybe I’ll read it… after everything else I have planned to read. XD Anyway, it was a huge part of her campaigns. It helped raise awareness in England, that, even though slavery was banned there, it was still practiced elsewhere. (Uh, well, duh! Come on, peeps. Get your head in the game, por favor. Gracias.)
- United States. Jackie Robinson. Hmmm… I know a lot more notable black people from the U.S. than the other states… which one… how about Jackie Robinson. Yeah, that’s cool with everyone, right? Yeah? Cool.
Jack Roosevelt Robinson (1919 – 1972) was the first African American to make it to Major League Baseball. (Aaayyyy good for you, Jackie! Nice! *back pat*)
A few fun facts featuring him… 1) Robinson’s older bro, Mathew, was a huge inspiration to him. Mathew won a silver metal in the 200 meter dash- just behind Jesse Owens (look him up; fascinating guy, that Owens), in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. 2) He played American football for the Honolulu Bears, though his time with them was short cut when the U.S. joined WWII. 3) He was a second lieutenant in the US Army from 1942 to 1944.
I don’t want to make this too long, so I’m just going to share a few interesting things about his baseball career.
At the time he started professional baseball in 1944 (hey, isn’t that when Ecury died? Wow. Strange how history overlaps), it was still segregated, so he played in the Negro Leagues. Though, he was soon chosen by Branch Rickey (Han Solo [Harrison Ford] in the movie about Robison, 42, in which T’Challa [Chadwick Boseman; RIP] acts Robison), the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to join their team.
Jackie Robinson and his wife Rachel suffered so much racism, but they pushed on. Jackie was countlessly tested and mocked, though he persevered. A line I found interesting from the movie was when a reporter asked what he’d do if someone threw a ball to his face. He replied, “I’ll duck.”
Some of the people who stuck by his side included Leo Durocher and Pee Wee Reese.
When members of the Brooklyn Dodgers were saying that they didn’t want to be on a team with a black man, Leo Durocher, manager of the Dodgers, said that he would sooner trade any of them than Robison.
When people were yelling at and harassing Robinson on the field, team captain Pee Wee Reese walked up to him, and put his arm around him. That act then became famous throughout baseball.
Another interesting thing is that two of Robison’s children have the same name as two of my grandparents. Sharon and David, and sadly Robison’s other son Jack Jr. died in 1971, at the age of 24, the year before his father died.
To finish this part up, I’ll say that Robinson really did make a huge difference in baseball.
Though history can be boring at times, it is also very fascinating. Let’s give a round of applause for these five!
The photo’s credit goes to Pexels Free Photos. More explanation on this to come in the next post.