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Ground Breakers

A great portion of American history is centered around the struggle for basic human rights, particularly amongst the African American community. Alexander Wolff’s Ground Breakers is a vivid depiction of what black individuals had to endure in order to integrate with their white peers and play football. Whilst most Americans are well aware of figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. , Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson, this piece focuses on lesser-known people who all helped to make a difference and smash the racial barrier.

Among these individuals are William Smith, who faced an abusive coach for his entire college football career, Greg Page, who worked hard and waited diligently for time on the field only to be killed due to injury inflicted by overly-aggressive peers, and Jerry LeVias, who had to crouch down on the sidelines because racist fans were constantly threatening to shoot him during the games.

These young men, however, were not only some of the first black football players– they were also some of the most skilled, and seldom received appreciation for the major victories they helped secure for their teams. The stories of such unknown historical figures are often overlooked– if anything, they are praised for their success yet not commended for their courage to stand against injustice and hate.

Ground Breakers shows a different path that some chose in order to make a difference; one example being Daryl Hill, who said that playing football was his way of fighting for equal rights. No matter what small action or feat took place, each one was a step towards equality. Wolff’s piece is a reminder of how important it is to appreciate how far society has come, and builds awareness of where society must go next. Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination Wolff, Alexander. SI Flashback: Ground Breakers

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