A thoughtful man, his expression pained, raised the question: “Why, with all that has happened to Black people, would you speak of celebrating history? Why would you title your book Glory Days?” I knew where he was coming from.
I write history. But why do I love it so? African American history especially. For me, history is an adventure into what was, to tell me something about what is, to help me frame what might be—what could possibly be. The future.
A story is told the world over of pillow feathers released into the wind. In some thought-traditions the feathers are gossip. The message: once feathers freely swirl the air, you can never take them back. Once gossip is set loose, you can never undo the damage done. Unleash that gossip on groups of people; it whoops up storms of racism, sexism; all such forms of bigotry. Bigotry becomes oppression. Oppression has overtaken too much of our history.
Thinking of that proverbial pillow, it came to me that its feathers could also take on different meaning.
In the final hour of his life—tension peaking as he challenged the oppression of Black sanitation workers by the city government of Memphis, Tennessee—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. started a pillow fight. “It was like a bunch of 12-year-olds,” Rev. Andrew (Andy) Young, King’s longtime friend, said of the scene. Comrades-in-arms, generals, frontline veterans of the battle for justice in America were having a pillow fight. An hour later, Dr. King—a 39-year old son, sibling, friend, husband, father of four, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate—was felled by an assassin.
Oh, the feathers unleashed by his loss: the rage, the grief, the insurrection of resolve, the resurrection of purpose, and the infinite acts of everyday courage. His Dream, his activism, his legacy of hope became feathers in the wind. Mighty wisps filling the air, redirecting our sights (and insights) beyond history to revelation, healing, transformation, and hope. King’s feathers changed the world.
A giant, he stood on the shoulders of many thousands gone. Together, they inspire us onward.
Happy Black History Month!
O ye sons and daughters of Africa, congratulations!
Do you know what a mighty people we are?
Celebrating the African American experience past, present, and future. We begin with Glory Days-in-Concert. This two-part show inspired by my live spoken-word concerts with choirs nationwide, features selections from my book, Glory Days: 365 Inspired Moments in African American History, set to music from the Spirituals to the Work Songs, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, and HipHop.
Our on-air schedule is subject to change due to the Impeachment Trial. The podcast will be available as listed.
February 1: Glory Days-in-Concert, Part One. “Coming Through the Storms”
February 8: Glory Days-in-Concert, Part Two. “Resistance, Rebellion, Resurrection, and the Making of a President.”
February 15:Band of Angels. Following historic Underground Railroad trails to a time as topsy-turvy as our own.
February 22: Who Was Austin Steward and Why Should We Care? The city of Rochester, New York unveils an historic marker to an unknown man. Why?
February 29: Remembering to Know: Historic Huguenot Street, The Slave Dwelling Project, #BlackStoriesMatter, and five writers in contemplation
The Janus Adams Show airs and streams live on public radio station WJFF Saturdays at 4:00 PM ET.
Learn more about the show here.
Subscribe to the podcast on SoundCloud.
Emmy Award-winning journalist, author, historian, keynote speaker, Dr. Janus Adams is publisher of BackPaxKids.com and host of public radio’s
“The Janus Adams Show” and podcast.