Golden Legacy

By | Thursday, October 12, 2006 Leave a Comment
My dad was a pretty progressive guy. He was born too late to have been a beatnik and he missed becoming a hippie by just a year or two. But I think he aspired to some of the intellectual, free-thinking ideals that the groups espoused. Consequently, while I was growing up, he made a distinct point of exposing me to a wide variety of experiences. We lived in a small, white-bred, Mayberry-ish town, but he still made a point of taking me in to work ocassionally -- a downtown Cleveland public school. He made a point of taking us different shows that came through the area; I remember seeing everyone from Doug Henning to John Sebastian to Mummenschanz.

One day, Dad came home from work with some comic books for me. Both my folks actually encouraged my reading comics because... well, it was reading. But he found these comics, as I recall, in a pile of books that one of the CPS libraries was getting rid of. Knowing that I liked comics and recognizing these comics' educational value, he picked one of each issue and brought them home for me.

The comics were about 15-20 years old at the time, but they were looking at historical events, so they weren't nearly as dated as some of the free Radio Shack comics about electronics I had. The series was called Golden Legacy and each issue told the story of notable black acievments throughout history. I remember thinking they were crudely drawn compared to the slicker look of the DC books I'd been reading, but the stories themselves were still interesting and compelling.

I remember two stories in particular. Issue five was a biography of Matthew Henson, who was on the first successful expidition to the North Pole and the first black man to reach the literal top of the world. Issues seven and eight were a two-part biography of Frederick Douglas, the famous abolitionist. I think the Henson biography stood out because of the similarities to classic adventure stories, with a small group of intrepid explorers battling the wilderness for the sake of going where no man had gone before. The Douglas biography, I know, struck me because I had recently seen his name in my social studies textbook at school. What was more striking was that the textbook's entire coverage of Douglas' efforts, and indeed his whole life, was summed up in maybe a paragraph.

"Hey, I thought we were supposed to learn a bunch of stuff at school. There's a LOT more in this comic about this guy than there is in my textbook!"

I don't know that I really have a point with this, but I find it interesting just how much knowledge I have that comes from comics. That, despite the cultural whitewashing that was so prevelant at least throughout my grade school career, I still managed to learn about important events that "the establishment" didn't really want me to acknowledge.
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