SHE (Surviving, Healing, and Evolving)®
SHE (Surviving, Healing, and Evolving)®

***SHE  For  HIM***

 

       

William Henry Lewis and William Clarence Matthews:  Brilliant Pioneering Black Harvard Athletes Who Didn't Just Shut Up and Play 

 

By Dr. Rhonda Sherrod

September 17, 2018

 

 

One of the many fallacies advanced in the past has found currency, once again, in some parts of the public square.  The notion that Black athletes are unintelligent and should, therefore, shut up and play, is now openly asserted among right wing conservatives.  With a president who is not averse to calling a Black player who kneels in protest an “SOB,” and who insinuates that a socially conscious athlete who opens a school is dumb, conservatives think the president’s utterances lend credence to their position.  They could not be more wrong.

 

Black athletic brilliance and activism stretches back more than a century and reaches into the most exalted halls of recognized academic excellence.  In what is now the Ivy League, one could study the first Black assistant attorney general of the United States, William Henry Lewis, who was considered one of the best collegiate football players in the country when he competed at Harvard in 1892-93.  Lewis had been the captain of his undergraduate team at Amherst College for two years prior to enrolling at Harvard Law School where he still maintained eligibility under the collegiate rules then in effect.

 

Before Amherst, Lewis had attended what is now Virginia State University where Attorney John Mercer Langston was president.  Among other accomplishments, Langston had served as the first dean of the Howard University Law Department—which he helped establish—and he helped Lewis transfer to Amherst. Langston’s strong scholarship and activism likely influenced Lewis’ decision to study law just as John Mercer's life’s work strongly impacted others.  Both the town of Langston, Oklahoma and Langston University are named after him.

 

After graduating from the law school where he had been an All American during his two years of play, as a Harvard coach, Lewis wrote one of the first books published about the game, A Primer of College Football in 1896.  He also wrote a chapter on defense in Walter Camp’s annual book, Spaulding’s How to Play Football

 

Lewis was the first football coach at Harvard to be compensated.  In 1898, he devised plays that put Harvard in the winner’s column against a fearsome University of Pennsylvania team whose “guard’s back” strategy rendered them a force that was considered unstoppable.  Harvard shut them out 10-0 while blazing through an undefeated season to a national title. Lewis was considered a mastermind on defense, and he conceived the “neutral zone” rule, adopted by college football in 1906, to decrease some of the brutality of football by keeping players apart at the line of scrimmage. More than 100 years after his outstanding playing days came to an end, in 2009, Lewis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

 

Another Harvard graduate and football enthusiast, Theodore Roosevelt, undergraduate class of 1880, took notice of Lewis.  In addition to football, the two men shared an interest in politics. While Roosevelt was governor of New York, Lewis was elected to the Cambridge Common Council from a majority white district in 1899 before serving in the Massachusetts legislature in 1901.  As president, Roosevelt appointed Lewis, who was still coaching, the first African American assistant U.S. attorney for Boston.  In 1907, his legal responsibilities expanded into the supervisory realm when Roosevelt promoted him to assistant U.S. attorney in charge of immigration and naturalization for New England. Finally, Lewis relinquished his Harvard coaching job.

 

Despite opposition from southern senators, President William Taft made Lewis assistant attorney general for the United States, which was then the highest federal office ever held by a Black person.  Lewis was one of the first Black members of the American Bar Association, again despite racist opposition.  After two years of public service, newly elected Woodrow Wilson, the first southern president since Reconstruction, segregated the federal government and dismissed Lewis. However, his legal fame and success continued as a private practitioner.

 

At Harvard, Lewis had coached and mentored another extraordinary Black athlete, William Clarence Matthews.  A native of Selma, Alabama, Matthews excelled academically while playing football and baseball at the Tuskegee Institute.  The college president—and most prominent Black leader in the country—Booker T. Washington, helped Matthews get into Phillips Academy in Massachusetts where he played football and was the first Black captain of the baseball team.  In 1901, Matthews went to Harvard and played varsity quarterback his first year before playing defense under Coach Lewis. 

 

A multi-talented athlete, Matthews played great defense and was an exciting base runner as a shortstop with a high batting average.  The Boston Post declared him Harvard’s “greatest big league prospect,” and “no doubt the greatest colored athlete of all time.”  Yet, the team, one of the best in the country, felt compelled to cancel its games in the American South fearing the antagonism their Black player’s presence would provoke at the turn of the century.  Today, the winner of the Ivy League conference title in baseball receives the William C. Matthews trophy.

 

In 1905, Matthews played a summer at shortstop for the Burlington, Vermont professional baseball team.  Despite stellar play, he suffered tremendous racial trauma and abuse from Northern League opposing players and, despite rumors, was unable to ascend to the big leagues.  Although many fans and some newspapers and coaches supported him, the racial dynamic was too much and the unfairness too great.  In the fall of 1905, Matthews enrolled at Boston University Law School. 

 

Matthews had a distinguished legal career. He served as legal counsel for Marcus Garvey and his Universal Negro Improvement Association from 1920 to 1923 and, as a Republican political leader, he helped Vermonter Calvin Coolidge win the black vote.  He followed in Lewis’s footsteps when President Coolidge appointed him assistant attorney general of the US.

 

Matthews was outspoken in his quest to see Black players in the major league.  He once declared, “As a Harvard man, I shall devote my life to bettering the condition of the Black man, and especially to secure his admittance into organized baseball.”  When Matthews died at age 51 in 1928, he was highly respected and admired for his athletic talent and his intellect.

              

Extreme right wing thought contradicts documented Black athletic activism excellence. Attempts to suppress Black athletes’ constitutional rights to free speech are attempts to diminish the important work they do to promote equality for Black people.  Examples of Black athletes who have brought a complex analysis to American racism include Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, John Carlos, Tommy Smith, Muhammad Ali, and Arthur Ashe.  Many Black athletes have committed significant money and extraordinary works to marginalized communities; and, today, LeBron James, perhaps the country’s most high profile player, offers a clear-headed, thoughtful critique of racism and searches for intelligent ways to dismantle some of it.  Fortunately, he has no intention of muting his influential voice. Colin Kaepernick aligned with an effective Black patriotic tradition by engaging in non-violent protest a la the many historic civil rights marches and gatherings and Black Lives Matter.

 

When I taught psychology at a historically Black college, athletes were fond of taking my classes despite, or maybe because of, my reputation for being a no-nonsense academic.  My mantra with college athletes was, “I’m not asking you to do anything that hasn’t been done already.”  Many of them accepted the challenge and stepped into scholastic greatness.

 

 

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"Heretofore, out of shame and shame and shame, and a need to appear invulnerable and impervious to pain, Black men have done the best they could to manage all their suffering.   Now, we need them to be free to name their pain and to care for their whole selves.  Sisters, we can help with this healing work for Black men.  Indeed, in ALL our relationships with Black men and boys -- as wives, significant others, sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, cousins, friends, teachers -- we are essential to the healing work." 

 

Dr. Rhonda Sherrod quoted at a SHE (Surviving, Healing, and Evolving) seminar conducted by The Need To Know Group about the significance of the Obamas' relationship.

JUNE IS MEN'S HEALTH MONTH

 

Posted June 7, 2018

 

“The guy walked in the room, and the look in his eyes said it all.

He wasn’t looking at me like, Keyon’s lost his damn mind.

He wasn’t looking at me like, Keyon’s a psychopath.

He was looking at me like, Keyon, what’s going on? What can I do to help, my friend?

It was [Coach] Doc Rivers.

I will remember that look for the rest of my life.”  

Excerpted from:  Running From A Ghost

 

 

In a powerful and moving essay, former Boston Celtics guard and NBA journeyman, Keyon Dooling, details his harrowing experiences with paranoid delusions and debilitating anxiety that landed him in a "mental institution."  He also speaks, with deep gratitude, about the warmth and compassion his coach, Doc Rivers, displayed toward him as he struggled.

 

June is Men’s Health Month and we herald the journey of Keyon Dooling, as well as the courage he displays as he helps destigmatize mental suffering by using his platform to share his story.  We also salute Coach Doc Rivers for his masterful handling of a delicate situation.

 

We encourage you to check out Dooling's article:  Running From A Ghost in The Players' Tribune online.

 

 **************************************************************************

 

                    "She is a friend of mind.  She gather me, man.  The pieces I am, she gather

                      them and give them back to me in all the right order.  It's good, you know,

                      when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind."      

                                                                                               From Beloved by Toni Morrison

 

 

Aah Brothers!

 

 

(c) by Rhonda Sherrod

 

 

On yesterday, I bounced onto the bus, en route to downtown Chicago from my suburban home, briefcase flying one way and my purse another.  When the bus lurched forward as I was advancing toward a seat, my attempts at maintaining my equilibrium ended with the papers I had been reading at the bus stop high-flight sailing all over the back of the bus while I tried to take a seat with as much poise as I could muster.  Nevertheless, it was a decidedly less than graceful moment.  

 

Just as I was sucking in air and about to breathe a disgusted little sigh, two brothers bolted from their seats, practically fighting over who would rescue this damsel.  Finally, the victor caught the papers, before they even hit the filthy floor of the bus, and served them up to me.  

 

“Thank you, thank you so much,” I gushed to my hero.  Then I turned to his competitor and enthusiastically thanked him, too – for competing.

 

Both smiled that coolness that brothers exude as another brother, flanking me on the other side, engaged me:

 

“Got somewhere important to go?” he ventured, smiling sweetly.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Going downtown?”

 

“Yes, I am.”

 

He waited… so, I continued:  “I have an important business luncheon.  I just started my own business not too long ago.”

 

“Wow?  I hope it goes well,” he said with such sincerity and genuineness it startled me.  This stranger, whom I had never seen before, seemed so invested in my success – a throwback to the way it used to be.

 

“I do, too. I do, too.”  I smiled, warmly.

 

“Well,” he said emphatically.  “I always start with ‘I will.’  You know, ‘I will have a good meeting.  I will get what I need to make this business go.’”

 

“Okay,” I said, by now lost in his thoughts.

 

Eventually, I returned to reading the papers that had cascaded out of my hands.  When I looked up again, I stared at each of the three Black men with whom I had just interacted, scrutinizing them.  One was looking out the window with his headphones on, his face tight and weary from life, but still comfortably lost in his music for the moment, I supposed.  Another was, no doubt, exchanging amusing texts judging from the delighted little expression on his young boyish face; and my “philosopher,” the sweet, elderly philosopher, was scanning his environment with what I came to realize was a perpetual smile on his face.

 

Suddenly, I was overwhelmed – overwhelmed with a sense of grief and sadness.  My thoughts centered around how unfair it is for Black men to constantly fight the vicious stereotypes long put forth by the dominant culture that portray them as anything but who they are:  good, kind, generous human beings doing what we are all doing.  They are trying to make it in a tough, often cold world.  Then, to have to carry that reprobate baggage that others have draped around their necks, like a huge oppressive weight, well, anybody can grasp just how unfair that is…

 

On my way home, from a successful meeting, I sat down on the bus and heard an excited,  “Hey!”  I looked up into the smiling face of my philosopher.  What were the chances that I would run into him again on my way back…  

 

He interrupted my thoughts:  “How did it go?”  he asked with the same intense sincerity he had manifested earlier.

 

“It went really, really well.”

 

“Wonderful,” he exclaimed.  “I knew it would.  I’ll see you later.”

 

He bounced off the bus, still smiling.

 

Aah, brothers… I wish you were free of other people’s sickness (and free from internalizing other people’s sickness to your detriment).

 

The essay is from the book:  Surviving, Healing, and Evolving ©

 

 

                                                                   **********************************

 

Question for the Month (October):

 

              "Brothers, when was the last time you cried and why?"

 

Send your answer through the Contact Us tab, and we will post a few of them.

 

 

Responses:

 

"I teared up last night-- when I read this page!  This is good work, Rhonda."  Eric

 

"Rhonda, thank you for this."  Akbar

 

SHE for Him, what a concept.  Love it. Love you.  Derek

 

Love the essay and the quotes from you and Toni Morrison.  Thanks, Rhonda.  Perry

 

"It's a lot of brothers out here like that are fighting this cold, cold world.  Thanks for the inspiring words you blessed us with; and actually I just cried the other day looking at a picture of my son and thinking back to that age and saying he has his whole life ahead on him.  Tears of joy from a young Black man."  Cortez

 

                     SHE for Him

 

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EXCITING NEWS!!

 

The BOOK by 

Dr. Rhonda Sherrod:

 

 Surviving, Healing, and Evolving

 

will arrive in November!! 

 

        ___________________________

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October 1, 2018

 

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(For more on William H. Lewis, click the SHE for HIM tab above!)

 

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Professor, Columbia and UCLA Law Schools

 

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"We are stars wrapped in skin, the light we are seeking has always been within."

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"At the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country.  Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg, or your brain, it's still an illness, and there should be no distinction."

 

 

Michelle Obama

 

FLOTUS FOREVER

 

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"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

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activist and martyr

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Author(1949)

 

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March 24, 2018

 

"You're going to

 

struggle, so surround

 

yourself with people you

 

trust."

 

King T'Chaka to

 

King T'Challa

 

(For a Review of the Black Panther movie, click on the SHE Goes To The Movies tab above!)

 

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March, 2018

 

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Party was not a 

 

gang.  They grew

 

 out of a young

 

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college campuses."

 

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February 4, 2018

 

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anger, and drive off the

 

beast of fear."  

 

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Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time.  If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday."  

Wilma Rudolph,

Olympic Goal Medalist

 

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"The secret of getting ahead is getting started."

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Media Mogul

 

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Scholar Extraordinaire

 

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New beginnings, y'all! Another year, another opportunity to become who we came here to be. Let's focus on discovering the tools and strategies we need to move forward.  Then, each and EVERY single day, let's try to use those strategies.  It might not be easy, but it will sure be worth it!"

Dr. Rhonda Sherrod

Soul Survivor

 

________________________________

Quote of the Month

January, 2018

 

"Trust yourself.  Think for yourself.  Act for yourself. Speak for yourself.  Be yourself. Imitation is suicide.",

Marva Collins, 

Highly-esteemed teacher

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"I am a woman -- gorgeously designed, brilliant, charming, mysterious, funny, bewitching, cool, and, most of all, uniquely purposed. I am my own phenomenal being, and I own and govern myself!"

 

 Dr. Rhonda Sherrod

QUOTE FOR THE SOUL:

 

"Dipped in Chocolate, Bronzed in Elegance, Enameled with Grace, Toasted with Beauty.

My Lord, She's a Black Woman." 

 

Dr. Yosef

Ben-Jochannan 

GET TO KNOW YOURSELF

BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

 

What makes you happy?

LOVE YOURSELF

BE AN ORIGINAL!

DO WHAT YOU CAME INTO THE WORLD TO DO.  

FIND YOUR PURPOSE, SO YOU CAN BE HAPPY!

 

 

 

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