Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Link to Michelle DeRoma's Senior Art Thesis
~  Michelle  DeRoma ~

African American Athletes and Their Paths to Glory

Walter Dean Myers: Inequality and Mistreatment in the lives of African Americans

Walter Dean  Myers
Discrimination, hardship, and mistreatment are some of the many obstacles African American face on a daily basis. Walter Dean Myers’ books exemplify how this discrimination is being carried out and the ways in which it affects his characters’ lives. The book The Glory Field is about the Lewis family who has seen the history of their ancestors captured, shackled and sold into slavery. They fight for equality and freedom throughout multiple generations and realized that the foundation that family provides allows the individual to face adversity and succeed. The book Slam is about Greg Harris who similarly exemplifies the dedication and determination one who encounters hardship must have to improve his life. Coming from the ghetto, Slam uses basketball as an escape from society, which gives him the ability to positively influence his future. Likewise, the book Scorpions portrays the challenges Jamal faces while living in Harlem. While his older brother is in jail, he faces the difficulties of providing for his family and the pressure to join gang life. Walter Dean Myers communicates a message of finding methods to overcome societal injustices in order to defeat the challenges that prevent an individual from making progress.

Real life examples of African American athletes who arose from poor and dangerous neighborhoods include Jesse Owens, Ray Robinson and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Each of these athletes gained fame for their strength, quickness, and success. Their hard work and dedication to their sport opened many doors and led them to develop the strength, independence and renown to which they aspired. These tremendous athletes demonstrated through their accomplishments in track and field and boxing that problems like discrimination and poverty could not stop a person from fighting to do what he or she loved. For instance, Jesse Owens was the tenth child of sharecroppers and was always ill because of a lack of healthy food. Ray Robinson dealt with the struggle of living in Harlem and dealing with his parents divorce while also trying to be the man of the house as a young child. Jackie Joyner-Kersee lived in a shack as a young child and had to deal with the problems of race and gender. These three athletes were capable of finding a way to rise to the top. They stand as role models to future athletes and the proof that dreams really can come true.

Mayor Works Consulted:

Baker, William J. Jesse Owens: An American Life. New York: Free Press, 1986.
Myers, Walter Dean. The Glory Field. New York: Scholastic, 1994.
---. Slam. New York: Scholastic, 1996.
Warren, Nagveyalti. “Jacqueline Joyner-Kersee.” Notable Black American Women Book II. New York: Gale Research, 1996.
Photo Credit: Myers, Walter Dean. Scorpions. New York: Harper Collins, 1988.