The ‘Black Panther' Is a Soaring Hit, But But My First Black Heroes Didn't Wear Capes.

The Black Panther got me thinking: Black heroes aren't that hard to find. For me, they were the men and women of my childhood who taught my math, history, science and Sunday school classes, those who knocked down the walls of segregated police and fire departments; and those who scaled the ladders of injustice in business, sports and politics.They were the historic figures slighted in the text books of our freshly integrated schools: Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Sojourner Truth, Dr. Charles Drew, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Crispus Attucks, Mary McLeod Bethune, Paul Robeson, Harriet Tubman, Paul Cuffee, Benjamin Banneker, Ida B. Wells, Ralph Ellison... The list could fill the rest of this space and then some. There were, however, no black "superheroes" projected on TV and movie screens, despite the likes of mighty men and women of sports -- Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Wilma Rudolph, Jackie "Fritz" Pollard, Althea Gibson.Our on-screen heroes always had more subdued, less fantastic obligations: They had to survive Act 1, Scene 1.They had to shatter the stereotypical step-and-fetch-it, shuckin' and jivin' depictions that kept the world in the dark about our intellectual, moral and physical abilities. Asians, Native Americans and Latinos can make the same claim.  Continue reading...

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