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Remembering: NASCAR’s First Black Driver And Hall Of Famer

There are millions of NASCAR fans all over the world but do you know that the first NASCAR driver was Wendell Oliver Scott from Danville, Virginia. History has recorded Scott as the only black driver to win a race in what is now the Sprint Cup Series. He could be compared to Jackie Robinson in the sense that he broke the color barrier in Southern stock car racing. The memorable day occurred on May 23, 1952, at the Danville Fairgrounds Speedway.

Scott gained experience and winning some local races at various Virginia tracks before becoming the first African-American to obtain a NASCAR racing license. It is unclear when the license was issued in 1953, although NASCAR does not have the exact date. As you can imagine, Scott’s career was repeatedly affected by racial prejudice and problems with top-level NASCAR officials. However, his determined struggle as an underdog won him thousands of white fans and many friends and admirers among his fellow racers.

It is said from the day was born he wanted to be his own boss. In Danville, two industries dominated the local economy: cotton mills and tobacco-processing plants. Scott vowed to avoid that sort of boss-dominated life. He once said, “The mill’s looked too much like a prison. You go in and they lock a gate behind you and you can’t get out until you’ve done your time”. From boyhood, Scott raced bicycles against white boys. In his neighborhood, he said, “I was the only black boy that had a bicycle.” He became a daredevil on roller skates, speeding down Danville’s steep hills on one skate.

He ran an auto-repair shop. As a sideline and for fun, he took up the dangerous, illegal pursuit of running moonshine whiskey. This trade gave quite a few early stock car racers their education in building fast cars and outrunning the police. The police caught Scott only once, in 1949. Sentenced to three years probation, he continued making his late-night whiskey runs. On weekends, he would go to the stock car races in Danville, sitting in the blacks-only section of the bleachers, and he would wish that he too could be racing on the speedway.

Scott was thirty years old at the approximate times when he was sitting in the bleachers of local speedways, watching white men race. Up to then, he had lived his whole life under the rigid rules of segregation. He could neither use a white bathroom or a white drinking fountain nor eat at a white restaurant. Nothing in his past had prepared him for the unusual, life-changing experience that was about to take place.

The Danville races were run by the Dixie Circuit, one of several regional racing organizations that competed with NASCAR during that era. Danville’s events always made less money than the Dixie Circuit’s races at other tracks. “We were a tobacco and textile town — people didn’t have the money to spend,” said Aubrey Ferrell, one of the organizers. The officials decided they would try an unusual, and unprecedented, promotional gimmick: They would recruit a Negro driver to compete against the “good ol’ boys.”

To their credit, they wanted a fast black driver, not just a fall guy to look foolish. They asked the Danville police who was the best Negro driver in town. The police recommended the moonshine runner whom they had chased many times and caught only once. Scott brought one of his whiskey-running cars to the next race, and Southern stock car racing gained its first black driver.

Some spectators booed him, and his car broke down during the race. But Scott realized immediately that he wanted a career as a driver. The next day, however, brought the first of many episodes of discrimination that would plague his racing career. Scott repaired his car and towed it to a NASCAR-sanctioned race in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. But the NASCAR officials refused to let him compete. Black drivers were not allowed, they said. As he drove home, Scott recalled, “I had tears in my eyes.”

A few days later he went to another NASCAR event in High Point, North Carolina. Again, Scott said, the officials “just flat told me I couldn’t race. They told me I could let a white boy drive my car. I told ’em weren’t no damn white boy going to drive my car.” Scott decided to avoid NASCAR for the time being and race with the Dixie Circuit and at other non-NASCAR speedways. He won his first race at Lynchburg, Virginia, only twelve days into his racing career. It was just a short heat race in the amateur class, but for Scott, the victory was like a barb on a hook. He knew that he had found his calling.

He ran as many as five events a week, mostly at Virginia tracks. Some spectators would shout racial slurs, but many others began rooting for him. Some prejudiced drivers would wreck him deliberately. They “just hammered on Wendell,” former chief NASCAR photographer T. Taylor Warren said. “They figured he wasn’t going to retaliate.” And they were right–Scott felt that because of the racial atmosphere, he could not risk becoming involved in the fist-fights and dirty-driving paybacks that frequently took place among the white drivers.

Many other drivers, however, came to respect Scott. They saw his skills as a mechanic and driver, and they liked his quiet, uncomplaining manner. They saw him as someone similar to themselves, another hard-working blue-collar guy swept up in the adrenalin rush of racing, not somebody trying to make a racial point. “He was a racer — you could look at somebody and tell whether they were a racer or not,” said driver Rodney Ligon, who was also a moonshine runner. “Didn’t nobody send him [to the track] to represent his race — he come down because he wanted to drive a damn racecar.” Some white drivers became his close friends and also occasionally acted as his bodygards.

Some Southern newspapers began writing positive stories about Scott’s performance. He began the 1953 season on the northern Virginia circuit, for example, by winning a feature race in Staunton. Then he tied the Waynesboro qualifying record. A week later he won the Waynesboro feature, after placing first in his heat race and setting a new qualifying record. The Waynesboro News Virginian reported that Scott had become “recognized as one of the most popular drivers to appear here.” The Staunton News Leader said he “has been among the top drivers in every race here.”

In 1961, he moved up to the NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) division. In the 1963 season, he finished 15th in points, and on December 1 of that year, driving a Chevy Bel Air and won a race on the one-mile dirt track at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida becoming the first and to date only top level NASCAR event won by an African-American. Scott was not announced as the winner of the race at the time, presumably due to the racist culture of the time.

Ironically, the second-place driver, was initially declared the winner, but race officials discovered two hours later that Scott had not only won, but was two laps in front of the rest of the field. NASCAR awarded Scott the win two years later, but his family never actually received the trophy he had earned till 2010–37 years after the race, and 20 years after Scott had died.

He continued to be a competitive driver despite his low-budget operation through the rest of the 1960s. In 1964, Scott finished 12th in points despite missing several races. Over the next five years, Scott consistently finished in the top ten in the point standings. He finished 11th in points in 1965, was a career-high 6th in 1966, 10th in 1967, and finished 9th in both 1968 and 1969. His top year in winnings was 1969 when he won $47,451 ($300,723.94 in today’s money).

This is not unlike much of what the ghost of the greats had to endure but their sacrifice changed the sport and the world. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

(Resource: Wikipedia)

 


The Middle Passage

16266194_1576646812351280_7451924563813283492_nWe cannot talk about Black History without remembering that horrible journey across the Atlantic called the Middle Passage. Imagine if you can, being captured, put on a forced march, beaten, put into pins while shackled, and then placed in a tomb-like environment with people you cannot, in many cases, communicate with for months, as you suffer a horrible journey into the abyss of the unknown. Now, look at what they call this today “The Trans-Atlantic Voyage,” as if it was a pleasure cruise Shocking!!!

These were the conditions leading to that horrible journey into the unknown for millions of Africans forcibly interned into the belly of the beast with a destination unknown. His-Story speaks to this wretched practice as part of the Atlantic slave trade. However, this was more commonly known as the “Middle Passage,” which refers to that middle leg of the transatlantic trade triangle in which millions of Africans were imprisoned, enslaved, and removed forcibly from their homelands never to return.

The transatlantic trade triangle worked this way. Ships departed Europe for African markets with commercial goods, which were in turn traded for kidnapped Africans who were transported across the Atlantic as slaves. The enslaved Africans were then sold or traded as commodities for raw materials, which would be transported back to Europe to complete the “triangular trade”. A single voyage on the Middle Passage was a large financial undertaking that was generally organized by companies or groups of investors rather than individuals.

African kings, warlords, and private kidnappers sold captives to Europeans who operated from several coastal forts. The captives were usually force-marched to these ports along the western coast of Africa, where they were held for sale to the European or American slave traders. Typical slave ships contained several hundred slaves with about thirty crew members.

The male captives were chained together in pairs to save space with their right leg chained to the next man’s left leg, with women and children having somewhat more room. The captives were fed beans, corn, yams, rice, and palm oil. Slaves were fed one meal a day with water, but if food were scarce slaveholders would get priority over the slaves.

The duration of the transatlantic voyage varied widely, from one to six months depending on weather conditions. Although, the journey became more efficient over time as the average transatlantic journey of the early 16th century lasted several months, by the 19th century the crossing often required fewer than six weeks. West Central Africa and Southeastern Africa was the most common region for traders to secure the human cargo that was destined for the Caribbean and the Americas.

An estimated 15% of the Africans died at sea, with mortality rates considerably higher in Africa itself in the process of capturing and transporting indigenous peoples to the ships. The total number of African deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage is estimated well into the millions. A broader look at African deaths directly attributable to the institution of slavery from 1500 to 1900 suggests up to four million perished, but some say the number was close to one-third of the Africans captured, and it is believed that nearly 60 million were captured.

For two hundred years, Portugal had a quasi-monopoly on the export of slaves from Africa. During the eighteenth century, however, when the slave trade accounted for the transport of about 6 million Africans; Britain was responsible for almost 2.5 million of them. In addition to markedly influencing the cultural and demographic landscapes of both Africa and the Americas, the Middle Passage has also been said to mark the origin of a distinct African social identity. These people, in American anyway, came to be known as “Negro,” which is a Spanish word that means “Black” but no Spanish country refers to its people of color that way.

Most contemporary historians estimate that between 9 and 12 million Africans arrived in the New World while others remain firm that it was more like one-third of the continent’s population. Disease and starvation due to the length of the passage were the main contributors to the death toll with dysentery and scurvy causing most of the deaths. Then there were the outbreaks of smallpox, syphilis, measles, and other diseases spread rapidly in the close-quarter compartments.

The number of dead increased with the length of the voyage since the incidence of dysentery and scurvy increased with longer stints at sea as the quality and amount of food and water diminished with every passing day. In addition to physical sickness, many slaves became too depressed to eat or function efficiently because of the loss of freedom, family, security, and their own humanity.

While treatment of slaves on the passage varied, the treatment of the human cargo was never good since the captured African men and women were considered less than human. Yes, they were “cargo” or “goods” and treated as such as they were transported for marketing.

Slaves were ill-treated in almost every imaginable manner. While they were generally fed enough food and water to stay alive only because healthy slaves were more valuable but if resources ran low on the long, unpredictable voyages, the crew received preferential treatment. Slave punishment was very common and harsh because the crew had to turn independent people into obedient slaves. Whipping and use of the cat o’ nine tails were common occurrences or just simply beaten for “melancholy.”

The scares of this and that of slavery linger to this very day. I would call the loss of land, soul, and our history as Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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“The Dash”

legacy bookI wonder how many of you have taken the time to reexamine the life you’ve been given. If you were to view the headstone that comes with the end of life; you will see your name inscribed. You will also witness a tiny Dash that separates the years of one’s birth and death that represents the whole of a person’s life. This should bring about an illuminating discovery. So if this tiny dash were to tell your life’s story, what would it say?

A few years ago I was blessed to be the vehicle to channel an epic novel titled “Just a Season” where a man journeys back in time to reexamine all the important people, circumstances, and intellectual fervor that contributed to the richness of his life. I chose to title this novel “Just a Season” because that’s all God gave us, and this novel is a story of life. It captures the journey, life and times, of an African American man living in America and the significant history witnessed during his journey.

Television Host and Poet Sistah Joy said, “Thank you for your example of tenderness and discipline in what I know is a story of love, delicately shared with readers in a way that says this life, though brief, is significant. So hold it in highest regard for “the dash” is our legacy to love ones, indeed to the world, which we are blessed to share, albeit, for Just a Season.” 

Other reviewers complemented this epic story by saying “This is the stuff movies are made of… not since “Roots” have I read a story that so succinctly chronicles an African American story!” Another said, “Not since The Color Purple have I read a book that evoked such emotions.”

Cheryl Hayes of APOOO Book Club said in her review that “Wills pulls you in from the very first page… Just a Season is a heart-wrenching story about growing up and believing in yourself. I highly recommend this book to young men in high school, trying to find themselves and feeling like they have nowhere to turn.”

This book has received rave reviews and I’m honored having my work mentioned in the same sentence with “Roots” and “The Color Purple”. This is evident of its richness and I’m blessed that the story has touched the hearts of so many and mankind. I will say, and you can quote me, “You will see the world through new eyes”. I will say, and you can quote me, “You will see the world through new eyes”.

It’s been said that there are no words that have not been spoken and no stories that have never been told but there are some that you cannot forget! It’s been several years since “Just a Season” and it’s time to move on. I’ve penned a new novel “Legacy – A New Season“. It is the sequel and the continuation of “Just a Season” and a stand-alone story rich in history on a subject rarely explained to children of this generation concerning the African American struggle.

Legacy – A New Season” the long awaited saga to the epic novel “Just a Season” will take you on an awe inspiring journey through the African American Diaspora, as told by a loving grandfather to his grandson in the oral African tradition at a time when America changed forever.

Prelude to “Just a Season”

A MUST READ!!!A season is a time characterized by a particular circumstance, suitable to an indefinite period of time associated with a divine phenomenon that some call life. One of the first things I learned in this life was that it is a journey. During this passage through time I have come to realize that there are milestones, mountains, and valleys that everyone will encounter.

Today, I have to face a valley and it’s excruciating. It’s June 28th, a day that I once celebrated as a very special day. Now, it’s filled with sorrow. The reason this day is different from all others is because I have come to the cemetery at Friendly Church.

Normally it’s hot and humid as summer begins, but not so today. It’s a cool gray day with the sky slightly overcast. I hear the echo of birds chirping from a distance. There is also a mist or a light fog hovering very near the ground that gives the aura of a mystical setting.  This is a place where many of my family members who have passed away rest for eternity.  Some have been resting here for over a hundred years. I have grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, a sister, and many friends here as well. The cemetery is in the most tranquil of places secluded from the rest of the world, very peaceful and beautiful, almost like being near the gateway of heaven.

My heart aches today because I have come here on what would have been my son’s birthday. This is a very hard thing for me to do as the natural order suggests it should be the other way around. Another difficulty is that this is the first time I will see his headstone that was put in place just a few days ago. Although I know what it should look like, it’s going to be hard to actually see it. It will indicate the finality of losing the dearest of all human beings.  It’s hard to imagine what the rest of my life will be like without my precious son.

As I pass Granddaddy’s gravesite, I stop to say hello. After a brief moment, I continue in the direction of my son’s resting place. As I get closer, I begin to receive a rush of emotion to the point that my movements slow as the sight comes into view. I can now see his name clearly and I whisper “God why did you take him?” I become numb as I finally arrive at his gravesite, overwhelmed with this never before known emotion. This is something I never thought I would ever have to do, but here I am!!!

Suddenly, the sky begins to clear somewhat, as I now feel the sun’s rays from above.  At this very moment, I receive an epiphany upon reading the dates inscribed on the stone.  1981 – 2001. What does this really mean? The beginning and the end, surely, but in the final analysis it is just a tiny little dash that represents the whole life of a person. I fall to my knees realizing the profound impact of that thought causing me to look to the heavens and wonder. If someone, for whatever reason, were to tell the story concealed within my dash. What might they say?

Get Your Copies

Just a Season

Legacy – A New Season


Romney’s Bain

I am an uncompromising history fanatic and some call me an expert, but I prefer to say I am one who seeks the truth. While we live in an era when so much history is being made we should be excited for the time in which we live. Last week, for example, we witnessed the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the president’s signature legislation the health-care law the Good Ol’ Boys call Obamacare. This was the most profound piece of legislation since the “New Deal”.

So let’s talk about Romney and his past. He started and built the venture capital and asset-management firm which was nothing more than a money-making machine. So what’s wrong with that? Well Bain Capital is a company that doesn’t and has never made anything; it invests. It spots trends, looks at promising companies tapping into those trends and then stakes its capital on improving a company, using Bain’s sector and financial experts to, as they say, help company’s get over a capital shortage or help it expand.

The companies that Bain identified and invested in, and not in a small way, while Romney was at the helm, were Microsoft, Stream Global Services, ModusLink, and StatsChipPac. These companies are now among the biggest outsourcing companies in the world, with call centers, factories and facilities, mostly in Asia, but also across the globe, that support U.S. high-tech companies. The mission of these companies was to help big U.S. companies outsource and offshore. And let me add that this strategy was and is designed to support a low wage business model.

Even his own Republican cohorts like Newt Gingrich said: “The Bain model is to go in at a very low price, borrow an immense amount of money, pay Bain an immense amount of money and leave. I’ll let you decide if that’s really good capitalism. I think that’s exploitation.” Then slick Rick of Texas said: “There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business. I happen to think that that is indefensible.”

So if he can be eaten by his own, who by the way does not appear to think much of his thinking, raise the issue – then why can’t President Obama raise the issue? Frankly, the president should have done so during the debate on financial regulatory reform. I should say there’s nothing inherently wrong with private equity, which plays an important role in the economy. Let me add that there’s nothing wrong with wealth and those who risk their capital in private-equity ventures should be rewarded when those deals pay off.

Romney himself acknowledges that the free markets need rules and regulations in order to function and we know certain dealings are prohibited and should be criminal like insider trading. So it is reasonable to ask whether some highly leveraged buyout deals, of the kind that Bain and other private-equity firms often conduct, should fall into the same thumb-on-the-scale category as insider trading.

Suppose a company is failing and appears beyond rescue. Suppose a private-equity firm buys the company with borrowed money, burdens it with more debt, and then spends the next few years firing workers, selling assets, eliminating pension plans — all while collecting handsome “management fees.” If you can recall losses at the nation’s largest and supposedly best-run bank, JPMorgan Chase — at least $2 billion and perhaps much more.

This is what Rick Santorum said in March: “I heard Governor Romney here called me an economic lightweight because I wasn’t a Wall Street financier like he was. Do you really believe this country wants to elect a Wall Street financier as the president of the United States? Do you think that’s the kind of experience we need? Someone who’s going to take and look after, as he did, his friends on Wall Street and bail them out at the expense of Main Street America?”

If you read my thoughts and words you know I don’t think much of the GOP or their henchmen but I agree with Santorum in this instance where I have to ask the question is this the guy we want to be president. I will go further and say Romney’s personality traits remind me of the “Robber Barons” of old. I would suggest that this so-called “Job Creator” needs to go offshore where he and his buddy’s send jobs.

Would he do this to the American Treasury and the American people if he were to become president? I say, yes! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

http://johntwills.com


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