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Friday, March 13, 2015
A great new book of Durham History: "The Secret Game"
Everyone in Durham should come to the event we're holding at Motorco next Thursday, March 19, at 7:00
OK, now that we got that out of the way...
The event is for an author named Scott Ellsworth and his new book, The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change and Basketball's Lost Triumph. The focus of the book is a basketball game that was played in Durham on Sunday March 19 , 1944 in a locked gym at the North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University). The teams involved were the NCC varsity and the best team that year from all-white Duke University. In the segregated Jim Crow south at the time, things like this were not supposed to happen. There were plenty of people that made it their business to see that things like this did not to happen. And to insure that if they did happen, there were swift and serious repercussions for all involved.
Yet this historic basketball game was played, with the help of a fascinating, courageous line-up of players and coaches from both teams. After a decade of interviews and research, Scott Ellsworth tells their story, and in telling it he also tells many extraordinary stories about the history of our town and the history of Duke and NC Central.
Although The Secret Game has some great writing about basketball and basketball history, it is much more than a basketball story. The Secret Game unearths marvelous social history and civil rights history. It is a book about race, history, segregation, courage, and fear, here in Durham, 70 years ago.
Here are just a few of the Durham stories I learned reading this remarkable book:
--In 1943 a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany named Ernst Manasse was teaching German at the North Carolina College for Negroes. After he and his wife invited some of his fellow professors to their Trinity Park apartment, neighbors complained, their landlord said he would shoot any Negroes coming onto the property, and the Klan threatened to burn down their house. Manasse and his wife Marianne felt they had seen this kind of hatred before...
--An up-and coming North Carolina College history professor named John Hope Franklin was one of Manasse's colleagues. Franklin, just after Pearl Harbor, attempted to enlist in a program for Navy officers, only to be told that because he was colored he'd never get in. "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought there was some kind of national emergency," he informed the white naval officer who met with him.
--The lead architect on Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium was a black man from Philadelphia named Julian Abele. He of course was never allowed inside to sit and watch a game-let alone attend the building's formal dedication on January 6, 1940.
--The 1943-44 men's basketball coach at North Carolina College, John McLendon, was one of the earliest proponents of the fast-break offense and a pressing defense. His Eagles teams were considered to be among the best in the country. McLendon came to North Carolina from Kansas, where he had studied the game with its inventor, Canadian James Naismith. Prior to playing the secret game, McLendon's 1943-44 team had lost just once-in the final game of the 1944 National Negro College Basketball Championship.
--The best team at Duke in 1943-44, the team that played in the secret game, was a group of medical students, most of them former college players (unlike most undergrads, medical students had draft deferments). Coming in to the secret game the med students were undefeated-including a victory over the Duke varsity team.
--Less than 3 months after the secret game was played, a colored soldier, in uniform, sat down only part-way back in a Durham city bus, next to two white soldiers. The colored soldier, a private from Pennsylvania named Booker T. Spicely, refused the driver's orders to move all the way to the back, saying "I thought I was fighting a war for democracy, but it looks like it doesn't work that way down here." When Spicely got off the bus, on Club Boulevard near the intersection with Broad Street-just a few blocks from The Regulator-the bus driver followed him off the bus and shot and killed him. Three months later, after 28 minutes of deliberation, an all-white jury found the bus driver not guilty of second-degree murder.
Author Scott Ellsworth has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Formerly a historian at the Smithsonian Institution, he is the author of Death in a Promised Land, an account of the 1921 Tulsa race riot. He is currently teaching at the University of Michigan.
We're hosting Scott Ellsworth, Thursday March 19, 7:00 at Motorco, 723 Rigsbee Avenue. (There's lots more seating available at Motorco than we have at the bookshop). Scott will talk, answer questions and sign books. The Secret Game is available now at the bookshop, and we will of course have lots of copies for sale at the event.
For some final words about the book, I'll turn it over to a couple of sports guys:
Mike Ryan, from ESPN and the Boston Globe says:
"This is much more than a story about basketball... White people need to read this book. People of color need to read this book. Whoever you are, you need to read this book."
And a guy named Mike Krzyzewski has this to say:
"The true story behind this extraordinary, long-buried game goes beyond any one school or any one state. The Secret Game is a triumphant look at how basketball has broken down barriers and helped create a new kind of America. Every citizen needs to know this story..."
See you at Motorco Thursday night--the 71st anniversary of the secret game.
JOHN HOPE FRANKLIN YOUNG SCHOLARS
Tuesday, March 17, 7:00 p.m.
In Running for Hope, Kendrick Parker isn't quite sure what's going on with his life. He doesn't know if the girl he is interested in really likes him back and his best friend is having troubles of her own. More importantly, his parents are keeping him up at night with their yelling. It's getting harder and harder to get to school on time, something his history and track coach, Mr. Douglass notices. Hoping to inspire Kendrick, Mr. Douglass hands him a copy of the graphic novel version of Mirror to America, renowned historian John Hope Franklin's autobiography. Little does he realize how much it will encourage him to take action. Durham teenagers from The John Hope Franklin Young Scholars program will be in the store to read and discuss the hybrid story with graphic autobiographical sketches, the result of their 18-month collaboration.
Wednesday, March 18, 7:00 p.m.
In What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs, Durham resident and North Carolina State professor Cat Warren uses her odyssey with her dog Solo to enter the broader world of scent-detection dogs, revealing the remarkable capabilities of working dogs, their handlers, and their trainers. Taking the reader from crime scenes to training sites and science labs, talking and working with other handlers and trainers, and interviewing animal psychologists, forensic anthropologists, breeders, and scent researchers, Warren explains how working dogs can capture the hidden worlds their noses know and translate that arcane knowledge for humans. The fascinating concepts behind the complex capabilities of working dogs emerge as Warren weaves the world of science and dog cognition with her own experiences in the field-all with an unsentimental yet sensitive touch.
Wednesday, March 18, 7:00 p.m
OFFSITE Duke's Nelson Music Room
New York Times bestselling author Leslie Jamison will give a public reading from her recent essay collection, The Empathy Exams, as part of the inaugural Kenan-CDS Visiting Writers Series. In The Empathy Exams, Jamison begins with her experience as a medical actor, paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose. Jamison's visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about one another? How can we feel another's pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other?
Thursday, March 19, 7:00 p.m.
at Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave, Durham
This is the remarkable story of a secret basketball game played in a locked gym in Durham, at what is now North Carolina Central University, in the heart of 1944 Jim Crow North Carolina. Scott Ellsworth's The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change and Basketball's Lost Triumph brilliantly explores both the history of basketball and, a full decade before the birth of the Civil Rights Movement, the bravery of African Americans and whites in the South who were already fighting back against segregation. In the 1940s at all-white Duke University, a group of former college players had formed a top-notch team at the medical school, defeating not only the Duke varsity, but also any team that came their way-all except for one. Standing in the way was nothing less than segregation itself. But in the spring of 1944, two remarkable teams-one black, and one white-risked their futures, their jobs, and even their freedom to play a game the likes of which the South had ever seen before. A full decade before the Brown decision and the Montgomery bus boycott, and three years before Jackie Robinson desegregated major league baseball, these long forgotten basketball players made some remarkable history of their own. The Secret Game tells an extraordinary story--an extraordinary Durham story that everyone who lives here will want to read.
YA BOOK CLUB
Friday, March 20, 7:00 p.m.
Come one, come all to the greatest book club of all! Do you love YA? Are you interested in discussing or starting to read YA? The we'd love to have you! This is a book club for all ages, the only requirement is that you are interested in the young adult genre. (This is to discuss the book alone, not a writer's group). Hosted by Isabel of Tween 2 Teen Book Reviews. Snacks will be provided. This month we'll be reading Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour, a YA mystery with a little bit of romance.