Every week, I go on WWAY News and give a comedic report on the weird or obscure news stories they did not report.
This week I take a break from weird news to celebrate Black History Month by sharing profiles on American history icons.
Enjoy the video and learn more about Althea Gibson, Thurgood Marshall, and Shirley Chisholm. It’s a history lesson filled with laughs.
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How goes it? I’m Wills Maxwell Jr. and this is “What Did We Miss?” Here I normally tell you the stories that WWAY did not but this month I want to celebrate Black History Month with you and talk about some of my personal heroes.
First up, Althea Gibson. Before there was Serena Williams… There was Venus Williams but only by like a year. But before both of them was Althea Gibson. As a kid in Harlem, Gibson was a natural at table tennis until someone finally asked her “How would you like to do this but bigger?” Gibson competed in tournaments in the American Tennis Association, a tennis league for African-American players. She kept winning so frequently and so decisively that it became impossible for the all-white tournaments to justify keeping her locked out. In 1950 she became the first Black tennis player to compete in the U.S. National Championship and she was the first African-American to compete at Wimbledon in 1951. Her win at the 1956 French Open made her the first African-American to win a grand slam title. She’d go on to win 10 more. Althea Gibson is also a Williston alum, she attended the then segregated industrial school while training with Dr. Hubert Eaton. So next time someone asks you “Who is the greatest athlete out of Wilmington, NC?” Answer “Althea Gibson” It’s the fastest way to make Michael Jordan suddenly appear and drop 50 on you.
Up next is Thurgood Marshall. What you might already know about Thurgood Marshall is that he was our nation’s first black supreme court justice opening the doors for Clarence Thomas… Anyway prior to his role on the bench, he had a very impressive career as a lawyer. Marshall was a lawyer for the NAACP legal defense fund. His strategy was to use the legal system to case-by-case prove that separate was not equal. I mean, people kind of knew that already but he had to get the courts to say it. Thurgood Marshall argued a record 32 cases before the Supreme Court and won 29 of them. That’s like Steph Curry’s free throw percentage. Each of these cases laid the groundwork for the groundbreaking Brown versus The Board of Education decision in 1954. This ruled that *mandating school segregation is unconstitutional whereas just kind of letting it happen is still allowed. Lyndon Johnson nominated Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967. Johnson predicted that because of this appointment a lot of baby boys would be named after Marshall. This did not come true, largely because his name is still Thurgood.
Shirley Chisholm was elected the first black congresswoman in 1968. That’s 192 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 98 years after Black men got the right to vote., 48 years after women got the right to vote, and 43 years before Beyoncé asked “Who Run The World?” Shirley St. Hill was born in New York and raised in my ancestral homeland, Barbados. By “ancestral” I mean my Dad is from there… he doesn’t like being called an ancestor. Chisholm entered the 1972 Democratic Presidential Primary, becoming the first African-American to run for office. She picked up 152 delegates or as we now know it, 10 Pete Buttigiegs. Being the first Black person to run for president opened the door to so many others. Without her, you don’t get Barack Obama, you don’t get Kamala Harris, and you don’t get Kanye West. I’m sure she doesn’t want credit for one of those. She was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus. Chisholm served in the US House of Representatives until 1983. She was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, one year before Wilmington’s second greatest athlete did.
I’m Wills Maxwell Jr. Happy Black History Month.