tv Interview with Kevin Merida The Fierce 44 CSPAN April 26, 2020 11:40pm-12:03am EDT
>> guest: our platform on race, sports and culture we had done a digital project in 2017 that was kind of an ode to the first african-american president hence the title so we have this idea what to do kind of an omar should inarguably what i think is the greatest achievement and who else should be on that list so we did a list, and international digital project and it was well received, highly debated and then the publisher said could you turn this into a children's book because there are not a lot of african-american biographies in the genre that was popular.
there were these beautiful frustrations so we edited the digital project and turned it into a book. >> guest: what is the format of the book? >> guest: it is short sketches with a couple of illustrations and it just gives you enough that they can learn about these tremendous african-american achievers and absorb some of the inspiration and greatness black americans have contributed. >> host: and you mentioned you are editor in chief. when did that come about and why? >> guest: we launched it in may of 2016. it was the idea of the former president and it was the idea
buthat here we have a digital project that really serve a loyal indexing and meanwhile help espn with our own sensibility where race and culture intersect. i think sports now it's very much about culture and so that came about and i was at the "washington post" where you and i knew each other and after a lot of debate i was presented this opportunity and place decided to give it t a stop to t co. shot. >> host: you are the managing editor at the "washington post." how much debate happened? >> guest: the loss, particularly my wife.
you disrupt your own career and want to do something different, take a little bit of a leap and try something different so i decided to do that and it's been fantastic. >> host: just to be clear, by 44 biographical sketches? >> guest: she was exiting the white house and we said we will do 44, it was originally called the undefeated 44 cities where our staff selections and there was a lot of debate. you can imagine because there were many more than 44. we don't say this is the greatest black achievers ever. it's just these are the 44 that we looked at that fit the
sensibility of the first african-american president in the sense that here is something they did that was pioneering, something disrupting, in some cases they were noisy geniuses were quiet innovators but they did something extraordinary in their own space and it was believe me, it was knocked down and we did it kind of democratically where to get on the list you have to convince the group person should be on the list and if you were going to have someone it was a lot of back and forth and a lot of people were left off a lot of of people were on the list. >> host: what do you want the young readers to know about barack obama besides being the first black president? >> guest: i was at the nba
all-star weekend and there was an event my colleague was hosting and barack obama was there and there was a discussion about what athletes do and how they use their influence on issues and it was a reminder of how to elevate a discussion. he was interacting with the athletes and you could just watch in the sense of thinking more deeply about how they could influence the dead use their own power for good. i do think that it's hard to become president. i don't care who you are. we are watching that now.
it's a difficult journey. to be the first african-american to do that is a signature achievement many people never thought they would see in their lifetimes, so that always stands at the top. >> host: the majorities of the profiles are not athletes. >> guest: we have six and even those the athletes that we do have in the list, some owned by a debate for she is the greatest gymnast, michael jordan, not only was he the first, the first black athlete outside of oj who kind of set the model for how athletes could do in business
and represent big corporate brands. he had a style and kind of swagger in addition to his ability so there are a lot of reasons why various people got picked and there were a lot of great athletes he could have easily been on the list but i think the athletes we do have are amazing. >> host: who is not in the book that he personally wanted in the book? >> guest: all of 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 some people were obvious. thurgood marshall was one of my favorite because i think sometimes his contribution to
breaking the back of jim crow and traveling dark roads and going into the old white court rooms and giving it under death threats, it was important to have good legal dimensions while everyone else is out on the street protesting and doing said saved games sitting in. he can't accept the idea that it was possible. also as a great orator there was a lot of debate. people were getting added on and it was very spirited.
>> host: the co-author of the book on clarence thomas, was he considered for this? >> guest: he was raised a supreme court justice he certainly was someone who was raised. there were a lot of people that were raised that i think we were mindful of also not trying to make these choices based on ideology or based on factors this person was isolated we try to look at achievement and what was done. tiger woods isn't on here and louis armstrong is another that was debated. part of it, the process was we
thought about we don't want to have it overly weighted with civil rights. you could fill an entire book fare. we were sensitive to what's missing. like i probably think if we added people in their in part because certainly religion is such a part in it and it still is and has played such an important role could have had more religious figures. so, at some point i think i may have raised it we don't have enough religious figures. military. there is a decorated general. >> host: first african-american general. >> guest: that's right. so, that was a bond to the fact of the contributions in the military and fighting and
defending the country. >> host: there is a connection between jesse owens and benjamin o. davis who both served or operated in the same time to go but then came back to the u.s. for different world. >> guest: and many of the others came back and were not treated and welcomed in the way that they are accustomed to the olympic champions they welcome. >> host: jesse owens returned home to the oppression of jim crow, working it's basically menial jobs like racing horses and pumping gas. >> guest: just kind of in a slideshow. that was a really tragic outcome for somebody who had essentially regarded as defeating hitler and really embarrassing hitler in the games.
>> host: i wanted to ask who was robert abbott? >> guest: he was a great newspaper editor. the chicago defender was the most important publication at the tim time and during as durid when chicago had the migration and being a kind of beacon for truth and leading the way. i think the defender come, the k newspapers at the time were they were not working at the white leaders. this is where we got our news and it was like they amsterdam news and of course the
you need to suffer to know what you can become and it was good from a sports standpoint and a race standpoint that really came together as an ideal. we are going to let them know that this is not the end of the world. we have an opportunity, and i think just the resilience of what black americans have done it was kind of reflected in the code, so it felt like both. >> host: as you mentioned, there were six athletes featured. our athletes inherently role models? >> guest: 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 and they interact with fans and fans like them and come to see them play the game so they look up to them because many grew up playing sports and they wish that they could become serena williams. look now she's lighting up tennis and was inspired by serena williams. so you see that kind of pipeli pipeline. i think athletes can look up to them and they want to become them and so they are a role model. >> host: what about colin
kapernick, but he considered for the? >> guest: yes, he was a symbol of activism and certainly sacrificed his career in order to make a point about police brutality and oppression and racial injustice, so i think that somebody who is kind of the modern-day at least it seemed that way by many people. >> host: there were two people in this book that i've never heard of i'm ashamed to say. one was a john michelle. >> guest: she was somebody
they die too young and you never know what they have become. but even him the kind of put them in as a descriptor because there were other artists and another couple of people on the staff. he thought there should be other notable that were more deserving of being an artist, so i think in every genre you have so much success that you make a choice for a lot of different reasons and we have some people wouldn't expect on the list.
>> host: so, disruptors was important to be included? >> guest: yes, i think it's good and courage, bravery. when you are taking the chance and going into the places where others haven't gone. all of those should be considered and certainly achievements and success. we didn't have any scoresheet. it was just a field and debate and we made some selections. >> host: the other one i haven't heard of, doctor charles drew. ..
we could have had a lot of other people. many people who work in the realm of scientific adventure and discovery he represent. >> who do you think? >> parent read with their children and i think everybody, kids of all races and ethnicities, these are black americans who shot the world but it is our history. it's american history and i hope kids everywhere can learn something. >> beautiful illustrations in here, who? >> robert fall. he's an artist that we contracted with, illustrated, it was fantastic. >> kevin is the editor in chief
of the undefeated, he is also one of the authors of this book, pierce 44 black americans who shook up the world. >> now on tv, "afterwards", weekly interview problem program with nonfiction authors being interviewed. new episodes of "afterwards" are on hold you to covid-19, we are sharing some from our archives. this week, former deputy fbi director, andrew who appeared on "afterwards" in february 2019. he discussed his career, the fbi and his firing from the bureau. he was interviewed by new york times reporter, adam goldman. all "afterwards" programs are also available as podcasts.