Haygood, Nugent Talk 1960s, Baseball at Bookplate

By Diana Sanchez 
Elm Staff Writer

Life in the 1960s was the topic of the evening at the Bookplate last Friday. Wil Haygood, the current Patrick Henry Fellow, and Patrick Nugent, the deputy director of the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, talked about the Flower Power era.

Haygood also talked about his upcoming book, which is based on the true story of a baseball team from an all-black high school in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, where Haygood spent his teenage years.

The book tells the stories of the players, the families, the teachers, and coaches that were part of the team’s unlikely success story.

The story is a compelling one which details the all black school’s history making moments from having the city’s first black principal, to winning two state championships, and, in that same year, sending the highest number of students to college than ever before.

In response to the news of the premise of the book, Haygood said, “The city is woke to this book.”

The city of Columbus, he said, is “woke” in the sense that the mayor is hosting an event that will be in honor of the real-life characters of the book.

The story of the baseball team reflects the story of black power, segregation, and undervaluing people due to prejudices.

Members of the audience were able to obtain the narratives from some of the characters of the unreleased book, which included Jack Gibbs, the city’s first black principal, to Bob Hart, the white baseball coach who was discouraged from teaching at the all-black high school.

Haygood shared his own personal connection to the book and his family’s story of living in Ohio in the 1960s. He recounted the time he had first seen a tank in his neighborhood and what it meant for his community.

When reflecting on his story and that of his family’s, it is not only the history of his family or of African-Americans, but part of the history of America, he said. Similarly, the story of the baseball team is not just reflection of the community, but of communities all over America, and what was happening at that point in history.

The political and social climate of the 1960s has connections to today’s climate of polarization and unrest, he said. Race issues have taken center stage in recent years with the unlawful killings of young African-Americans from police.

As Haygood argues, America is divided into two and the reconciliation of those two halves is still unknown.

After the completion of his fellowship, Haygood will be returning to Chestertown for the release of his book, which is set to come out in September.

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