tv Interview with Kevin Merida The Fierce 44 CSPAN April 3, 2020 7:32pm-7:55pm EDT
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out a young readers book called the fierce 44? for the undefeated, our platform, which publishes on race, sports, culture, we had done digital project in 2017 that was kind of an ode to the first african-american president hence the title of the fierce 44. so we had this idea let's do kind of an oma's two and arguably the greatest achievement for african americans become president and who else should be on that list? and so we did a list, this interactive digital project, it was well received, highly debated, and then michelin publisher said could you turn this into a children's book? and because there are not a
lot of african-american biographies as a genre that was popular, children's biography collections. and so they loved robert ball have these beautiful illustrations and we edited our digital project and turned it into a book. >> with the format of this book? >> guest: it's basically short bio sketches with a couple illustrations. it just gives you enough, gives kids enough that they can learn about these tremendous african-american achievers, and just absorb some of the inspiration and greatness that black americans have contributed to this country. two you mentioned your editor-in-chief of the undefeated, that's part of espn? >> guest: that's part of espn. >> host: why question two we launched in may 2016 it was the idea of a former president of espn, john skipper, it was
the idea that here we have a digital project that really could serve a really loyal over indexing black audience on digital. and meanwhile help espn with bringing our own aesthetic insensibility to espn where race, sports and culture intersect. think sports now is very much about culture two. and i think that came about and i was at the "washington post", you and i knew each other, after a lot of debates, i was presented with this opportunity. i decided to go ahead and give it a shot and essentially have a startup within espn. >> you are editing manager of the post, how much debates happen in your family before
yo you. [inaudible] speak to a lot of debate, particularly my wife. sometimes you disrupt your own career and want to do something different, take a little bit of a leap off of that cliff and try something different. so i decided to do that and it's been fantastic. >> just to be clear, why 44 biographical sketches? two it's a playoff of the 44th president. he was exiting the white house, and we said, we will do 44 it was originally called the undefeated 44. these were our selections, our staff selections, there's a lot of fierce debate. you can imagine because there are many, many more than 44 great african-americans. we don't say this is the greatest black achievers ever, we don't try to put that on
these are just 44 that we looked at that fit the sensibility of the first african-american president in the sense that they did some thing pioneering, something disrupting, they were in some cases i would say noisy geniuses are quite innovators, but they did something extraordinary in their own space. and it was, believe me, peter, it was knockdown, drag out debate among our staff. we kind of did it kind of democratically where to get on the list, you had to convince this person should be on the list and if you're going to add someone you had to say who will begin a takeoff. is a lot of back-and-forth and obviously a lot of people were left off. a lot of people are on this list. >> host: what you want readers
to know about barack obama besides him being the first black president? >> it's interesting as of the nba all-star weekend in chicago. and happen to have be at an event michael will bump my calling it espn was hosting and it had. [inaudible] what athletes do and how they use their influence on issues as a reminder of what someone like obama does to elevate a discussion. he was interacting with the athletes and you just watch the athletes in the sense of thinking more deeply about how they could influence and use their own power for good on social issues it's a fascinating discussion i do think, look it's hard to become president.
i don't care who you are, we know we are watching that now. it's really difficult long journey. so should be the first african-american to do that is a signature achievement that many people never thought they would see in their lifetime. that always stands i think at the top of the mountain of achievement. >> host: the majority the profiles are not athletes. >> guest: we have six athletes and even those, there are people who left out but i think the athletes that we do have in the list, serena williams, simone biles was arguably the greatest gymnast ever, i think she is the greatest gymnast ever, michael jordan, who kind of not only was he the first black athletes outside of ojeh who really kind of set a model for how athletes could do in
business. and represent big corporate brands. he had a style in a kind of swagger in addition to his highflying ability is a lot of great athletes. hank aaron is not on the listening very easily could have been on that list. but i think the athletes we do have are amazing. >> host: who is not in the book that you personally wanted in the book? >> guest: i think. >> host: or did all your choices get picked? >> guest: no. they didn't. some people i argued for, i don't think there was much argument, but i think look some people are obvious, allie was one marshall was one of my favorites because i think
sometimes his contribution to really breaking the back of jim crow through the legal system and traveling dark roads and really going into all-white courtrooms on really doing it under death threats, it was really important to have the legal dimension while everybody else was out in the streets and protesting and doing siddons. he was one of my favorites abound that list. think i will argue for jesse jackson as a forerunner to barack obama, he first set the idea that it was possible, a lot of people did not want to run for president. someone who is aspired many generations to have hope and faith. there is a lot of debate, people getting knocked down and added on.
it was very spirited. you are the co-author of a book on justin clarence thomas was he considered for this fierce 44? >> guest: he was raised to an assisted pre-supreme court justice he certainly was someone who was raised. there are a lot of people that were raised we were mindful of so of not trying to make these choices based on ideology or based on factors that hey, this person was isolated from the race, we tried to look at achievement and what was done. obviously with 44, you're missing a lot of people. tiger woods is not on here. i think louis armstrong is another that was debated.
>> host: but duke ellington is in there. >> guest: yes duke ellington is in there. the process was, we don't want to have it overly weighted with civil rights or activist figures. you could've filled the entire book there. we were sensitive to what's missing. i probably think we added people, richard allen is in there, in part because certainly religion is such important. founder of the ame church. religion is so important to black communities and still is. and churches have played such a role who probably could've had more religious figures. at some point i think i may have raised it, we don't have enough religious figures. military, decorated general is in there. so first african-american general. two that's right.
that was a nod to the fact of our contributions to the military and fighting and defending this country. >> host: there's a connection between jesse owens, benjamin davis who both served or operated during that same time. but came back to the u.s. to a different to the same old world. >> guest: to the same old world and jesse owens and many of those other olympians from the 1936 olympics came back and were not treated and welcomed in the way that we are accustomed to olympic champions being welcomed. c1 jesse returned home to the apartment to jim crow it with menial jobs like racing horses and popping gas. >> guest: is kind of a sideshow is a really tragic outcome for somebody who had essentially regarded as defeating hitler. and really embarrassing hitler
and the games in germany. see what i wanted to ask who was robert abbott's? >> guest: he was a great newspaper editor of the chicago defender was the most important publication in america for black americans. it was during a period when chicago where there is a migration, the chicago and relate nationally, in kind of a beacon for truth. and leading the way. robert abbott definitely deserved and of course journalists, we have to have journalists representation. two what was the ports of the defender? what is the importance. >> host: i think black newspapers of the time, i mean african-american were working at the papers. this is where we got our
news. news like the amsterdam news and of course the afro-american, other papers from the country were black papers, they were out covering the civil rights movement, and covering injustice in many of those reporters that were going down the deep south were just like marshall, they had to figure out how to stay in places and file their stories in dangerous places they were also had to do their work under threats. i think they were really important, the black newspaper of chicago the defender standing above all as leaders in the civil rights movement. what was that toughest part of transitioning from the washington port and chant post and politics into sports and politics fear? >> guest: i was a sports fan.
i followed sports closely, as managing editor, i oversaw the news and features that included the sports department, i've written a lot about sports. as a feature writer, so i felt comfortable in the sports world. i didn't feel too out of place there. i think the biggest difficulty, transition is your to place like the "washington post" that is so news is centered. it's going to a start up essentially that did not have a culture, we had to build everything from the ground floor. when you're starting something new, you are encountering all kinds of challenges that go along with that. it was a great transition. c1 weiser called the undefeated? >> guest: it's based off a
quote that we may encounter very many defeats but we will not be defeated. sometimes, you need to suffer defeats in know what you can become. it was really both from a sports standpoint, and from a race standpoint really kind of came together as an ideal. sports, our kids lose, we hug them, they're going to lose the game would let them know this is not the end of the world, there will be another opportunity. i think just the resilience of what black americans have what they've done in this country, they are resilience, in their triumph over obstacles was reflected in that quote. the undefeated felt good. >> host: as you mentioned their six athletes featured in the fierce 44, are athletes inherently role models? >> guest: i think whether they want to be or not they are for
many people because they play in public they are out doing their work in public they interact with fans and then watch them people pay money to come see the game so kids look up to them. many kids grow playing sports and they wish they could become serena williams or look at coco she's lighting up tennis and she was inspired by serena williams. naomi osaka was inspired by serena williams. you see that kind of pipeline from althea gibson to serena williams. i think with athletes to look up to them and you want to become them. and they are a role model. student what about : capper neck was he consider for this book? >> guest: yes there is
discussion about him, certainly at a point in time, he has become a symbol for activism, black athletes now. and certainly sacrificed his career in order to make a point about police brutality and oppression, racial injustice. i think somebody who is kind of the modern day ali to sacrifice something elise it seen that when he by many people. he was definitely considered. >> host: there two people this book i have never heard of it i'm ashamed to say one is jean michel basket? am i saying that rectally? >> guest: he was really kind of liken avalon guard painter. he really was, and right now
some of his paintings are, his paintings are up there at the highest resale value now. he died young. he was somebody like young geniuses that died too young and you never knew what they could have become. even him we put them in as a disruptor is there a lot of other artists and i know couple people on our staff, i've got a call jesse washington out he thought there should have been other notable others who were more deserving i think in every genre you have success. give so much success. that you are making choices for lots of different reasons. i like the fact that we have some zag were people would not expect a person to be on the
list. >> host: so disruptors was important to be included? >> guest: i think disruption is good, courage, bravery taking a chance in going into the places where others fields others hadn't gone i think all of those should be considered certainly achievement and success was important. so there's just a lot of factors, we did not have any scoresheet, it was really a feel and a debate. we just made some selections. >> host: the other when i had not heard of doctor charles drew. a pioneer in medicine. it is from nashville and he represents the importance of medical discovery the
contributions they there to think the way we look at that within charles drew was somebody that we could have had a lot of other people, george washington carver, many people in the realm of kind of scientific invention and discovery. >> host: you up reaches? >> i hope kids, parents read with the children. and i think everybody, kids of all races and ethnicities, these are black americans are shook up the world but it is our history. it's american history. hope that kids everywhere can learn something. c1 beautiful in illustrations in your who did that? >> guest: robert ball he's an artist we contracted with, illustrated and it was
fantastic. >> host: kevin is the editor-in-chief of the undefeated he is also one of the authors on this book, the fierce 44, black americans are shook up the world. >> guest: thanks peter for having me. >> joining us on book tv is a bradley graham is the co-owner of politics and prose bookstore here in washington d.c. along with his wife, mr. graham what has been the effect of the coronavirus crisis on your business? >> it is vince pretty severe. it's been a severe on us as on many retailers around the country. you know bookstores are placer people come to browse and