Current events drive a good share of nonfiction book movement in any library. Usually someone is intrigued by an article they read in the newspaper, or moved by a story that touches a certain nerve, and they seek out ways to further their curiosity with a book.
It's no secret that sports and social issues go hand in hand. The movement by Missouri football players to boycott football in order to protest racism on the University of Missouri campus this past weekend was powerful to many kids. One of the talents of a good teacher/coach/librarian is to develop a strong enough relationship of familiarity and trust with students that you can have these heavy discussions. As often the case with me, a good casual discussion opens the door for me to suggest some books that are relatable to the current issue.
This particular protest in Missouri made me think of a book that I recently purchased for the collection called Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South by Andrew Maraniss. The books is about Perry Wallace, a student and talented athlete who became the first African-American basketball player in the SEC at Vanderbilt University during the turbulent late 1960s. Wallace experienced the hostile crowd environments of the south, fought alongside other black students for better treatment from the university, and struggled for his rights as a black basketball player in a white conference. His story highlights the civil rights and racial tensions that existed back then--and obviously still do today. Members of the Missouri football team that boycotted were ultimately able to hit the right people enough where it hurt, and like Wallace, found a measure of success by taking action.
Missouri defensive end Charles Harris was quoted in a USA Today piece by Jarrett Bell saying, "Let this be a testament to all the athletes across the country that you do have power."
I think this is a message that Perry Wallace would be happy to have you take from his story.
Now there's a fresh case for the history books, with the kids at Missouri scoring a victory that is more significant than any they can achieve on the field.